Eric Press

Modular optic flow processing during natural locomotion
Douglas Altshuler
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

During undergrad, I supposed that I was curious by nature but knew I lacked experience with any long-term curiosity-driven activities. Fortunately, an undergraduate lab-based research course and honour’s thesis project showed me that graduate research would very likely offer an engaging, self-driven and creative project that could also prepare me for a wide range of careers.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

In addition to its world-class reputation for cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and the highly appealing campus in Vancouver, I felt UBC would provide a rich and challenging graduate experience demanding both academic and personal growth.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The diversity of research in the Department of Zoology offered much of what I was looking for in a group sharing my enthusiasm for physiology and its potential for seeding innovative technology.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

Many told me how beautiful Vancouver is but I still wasn't ready for it.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Years of athletics gave me many opportunities to work towards team goals and recognize how individual effort can only go so far. It also allowed me to see the tangible benefits of supportive criticism. Graduate school is full of opportunities to learn from and work with your colleagues and to use criticism for growth rather than feeling discouraged. I believe that if you’re not gaining new skills in graduate school, you’re not in the right place and athletics has allowed me to find comfort in that kind of environment.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Graduate school promises to be a challenging (if not traumatic) experience at times, so it really pays to get to know how you work and learn best. As much you can, remain dedicated to improving your approach to difficult tasks and stay open to new ideas. Understand that your work is very important but while there will always be more to do, having a life is just as important.

This image shows the expression of optogenetic actuators in visual regions of the hummingbird's brain. These actuators are membrane ion channels that are activated with light and used to manipulate neural activity as the bird flies around.