Julien Richard Albert
Almost all living organisms begin as a single cell (for example, a spermatozoid-containing egg) that divides and grows into a multicellular adult with the guidance of a developmental program. This developmental program is encoded in the genome of the cell; a self-extracting DNA-based information system that integrates environmental and autogenous inputs. Controlling this program is a delicate balance of temporal and spatial regulation of gene expression but unfortunately, the specific DNA sequences that interact with gene regulating factors remain largely uncharacterized. I aim to characterize these sequences, providing us with a better understanding of how a genome is capable of guiding a single cell through its development into a fully functional adult.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
Towards the end of my graduate degree I plan on TA’ing genetics courses for the department of biology. As both my mother and father are successful teachers, I am curious to find out if this is an inherited trait.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
My favourite part of Vancouver and UBC is the sheer beauty of the surroundings; I was pleasantly surprised when I realized they put effort into immersing themselves in the landscape instead of ruining it.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
I decided to surround myself with the smartest people possible in Canada, they just happened to be at UBC (specifically, Matt Lorincz and his lab). Also, I am sick and tired of Canadian winters; Vancouver provides me shelter from this god-awful season.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
Medical Genetics at UBC offers support for biologists interested in analyzing large (gigabyte-sized) datasets, which requires extensive computer programming knowledge. Here, the intersection of genetics and computer science is at the forefront of Canadian research.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
Communicating research topics and results to the general public. I believe that if scientists expect to be funded by the government, we should at the very least spend the time to properly explain what we do and how it will benefit the country.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
Although it is not a major goal of the program, graduate students are encouraged to write “layman summaries” of their proposed/active research topics.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
I had the privilege of working in 5 different labs back home before entering UBC. Special thanks to Drs. Paul Joyce, Judith Kornblatt, Reginald Storms, Malcolm Whiteway, Mike Tyers and their labs!
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
Science is fun and reading non-scientific literature is relaxing. I regularly attempt golfing for fun and relaxation, but above all it’s an exercise of controlled frustration (which comes in handy in research).
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Read, read, read.