Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
Archaeology’s immense disciplinary diversity, influenced by anthropology, geography, geology, chemistry, sociology, history, and biology, have always been of interest to me. My own project employs shotgun proteomics, a method developed in biochemistry, to answer archaeological questions. Tying together the different facets of archaeology is an underlying passion and interest in the lives of past people. This is ultimately what drew me to archaeology and what continues to drive me towards research. My decision to pursue a PhD is based in a desire to grow and evolve as a researcher.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
I was primarily led to UBC through the positive reputation of the Anthropology Department and my interest in working with Dr. Camilla Speller. Given Dr. Speller’s expertise as a biomolecular archaeologist working to incorporate more biomolecular methods in Canadian archaeology, I could not have imagined finding a better supervisor for my own doctoral project. Having the opportunity to live, study, and work in Vancouver is just a bonus.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
There are two main reasons why I chose to pursue graduate education at UBC. First, UBC Archaeology prioritizes Indigenous issues and Indigenous archaeology. Many archaeologists at UBC collaborate with, and are led by, First Nations communities with specific questions about the past. This is an incredibly important perspective to support, as the origins of archaeology lies in the legacy of antiquarians, collectors, and colonisers. UBC archaeologists work to decolonize the discipline through the incorporation of Indigenous scholars and their ways of knowledge into all aspects of archaeological inquiry, which is sorely absent in many other archaeology programs across North America. Second, I was impressed by the Laboratory of Archaeology (LOA), situated within the Museum of Anthropology. As part of LOA, my supervisor Dr. Speller manages ADαPT, a group of specialised facilities dedicated to the analysis of ancient DNA and ancient proteins. Being a student of ADαPT provides me with unique opportunities that otherwise may not have been available to me.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
Beginning this program during the COVID-19 pandemic, I didn’t know what to expect. But despite the challenges, I have met amazing people both in and out of my department. My colleagues and classmates are supportive, and with my first-year cohort, in particular, I have made several close friends. It was a wonderful surprise to be able to come together in such a difficult situation. Also, the food in Vancouver is amazing! It is a diverse city and I find that I am discovering new favourite places each time I venture outside my house.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
During my undergraduate studies, I actively looked for opportunities wherever I could. Beyond classes and what was mandatory, I always tried to find ways to gain experience and get involved within my department. Most of my professional and academic opportunities originated from my push to be involved and to proactively look for new experiences and challenges. These departmental connections served as the skeleton for my professional network, which has been invaluable to my career thus far. The more experience I gained, the more I was able to narrow my research interests. Even the dead ends taught me valuable skills that I was able to use in other contexts. In fact, my most essential skills as a PhD student are not necessarily the most obvious. Personal tools like organisation, time management, good lab practice, and writing skills continue to be lifelines in my PhD program.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
My advice is to follow your interests. Graduate programs are neither short nor easy. But if you truly enjoy what you are doing, if you have passion for your subject, then it won’t be half as bad. If you don’t know what you’re interested in right now, that’s okay too! Look around and find opportunities in different areas and narrow down the list from there. Also, reach out to your fellow students. The first year is rough for everyone and being surrounded by a supportive community can really help. Plan social events, make messenger groups, be the person who takes the first step. The rest of your cohort will thank you for it later.