Erika Siren

Glycocalyx Engineering Strategies to Promote Localized Immunosuppresion in Organ Transplants
Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

After completing my master's degree in Toronto, I found myself able to confidently carry out research but still at a loss as to the type of scientist I wanted to become. I really enjoyed doing research and figured that a Ph.D was a good way to both get thorough expertise in a niche area of research while still giving me the flexibility to explore different facets of science. Your years as a Ph.D student provide a great opportunity to meet many different types of scientists and collaborate in multiple research disciplines. People are eager to help while you're in the training phase—all you have to do is ask!

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

When I first visited UBC, I was really impressed with the numerous interdisciplinary institutions that were dedicated to Life Science and Health Research (The Life Sciences Institute, Centre for Blood Research, Michael Smith Laboratories, Biomedical Research Centre). UBC does some really creative research in the Life Sciences and I think that's because many of it's researchers are open to getting outside their comfort zone. My own institution, the Centre for Blood Research is heavily interdisciplinary. It's nice having a bunch of different thinkers under one roof to bounce ideas off of and reach out to when you're about to do some experiments that are outside your wheelhouse.

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

Though my academic training is in biological chemistry, I wanted to move towards research that was more translational. My supervisor, Dr. Jay Kizhakkedathu, holds appointments in both chemistry and pathology. His work is heavily focused on clinical applications which I found to be really exciting. Working with him, I've been able to continue my work in chemistry (by synthesizing biomaterials) but have also had the opportunity to collaborate with engineers and surgeons to ensure that my work can be ultimately translated toward clinical implementation

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

How beautiful it is! Four years later and those North Shore mountains on a sunny day still take my breath away!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Use your first couple of years to get out of your comfort zone—attempt challenging experiments, work on your weaknesses and try to get involved with an array of the great extracurricular opportunities for grad students that UBC has to offer. You'll quickly find out what you like (and really don't like), allowing you to really dial into what you're truly passionate about in the final years before you graduate.