Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I am pursuing a PhD because I believe it is imperative for the professional elevation that I seek. From my PhD journey, I anticipate to: 1) satisfy my scientific curiosity while contributing to translational research, 2) grow as a scientific communicator, 3) develop invaluable research skills, and 4) gain the overall competence to contribute to future research that will impact how diseases of the reproductive system (including cancers) are managed globally.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
UBC was the only university in Canada that checked all the points on my list of school requirements. It is highly ranked worldwide, well-renowned for its impactful research in medicine, and located in Vancouver which is absolutely breath-taking.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
I have learned that the research project and the supervisor are more important to me than the program itself. In regards to the latter, I was drawn to my supervisor's style of supervision which is more akin to academic and professional mentorship rather than just a supervisor. I believe this type of relationship is important in traversing the hard road to a PhD and preparing for life post-PhD. It is also highly commendable that my supervisor’s more senior students, and UBC, have praised him for his mentorship of students. Moreover, I was attracted to the translational approach of my research project and how well it suits my experience, passion, and future ambitions.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I saw amazing photos of Vancouver on the internet before coming here, but they failed in comparison to the charm of the real thing. I am surprised by how well preserved the natural beauty of Vancouver is, despite being one of the major cities in Canada. I guess this explains why Vancouverites enjoy being outdoors regardless of the season. The city is also quite dynamic as it relates to cultural diversity, architecture, food, and the arts. There is literally something in Vancouver for everyone! At UBC, I am most impressed by its research infrastructure, partially driven by the quality of scientists that the university houses. I am also moved by its interdisciplinary approach to research which offers an opportunity to broaden one’s learning potential in different areas outside of their main research topic.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I am most excited about the multidisciplinary components that make up my research, and how they will collectively shape my final thesis presentation. Also, a major part of graduate school is presenting one’s research findings at conferences- I look forward to doing so locally, domestically and internationally.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
The biggest foreseeable challenge for me would have to be professional identity. I have been a medical laboratory scientist for over nine years, and whilst I am excited about life after PhD, it is somewhat scary to step so far outside of one’s professional comfort zone. It is a bit frightening to grapple with the fact that I will be taking on an entirely different career path after my PhD; but, it is a challenge I accept wholeheartedly!
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
My supervisor is particularly keen on ensuring that I not only complete my research project and successfully defend my PhD, but also that my PhD journey is tailored towards my future ambitions. I am advised on the different professional development resources that are at my disposal such as training in grant writing, knowledge translation, research ethics, statistics, clinical research, policy, etc. I look forward to taking full advantage of these opportunities and others. Furthermore, working in an interdisciplinary environment is a great way to network with both current and future leaders in my field which could aid the transition from PhD student to professional.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
I believe my professional and academic experiences have helped to prepare me for my graduate program. I worked in laboratory medicine for several years, an experience that certainly fuelled my curiosity and drive for translational research. Moreover, completing an MSc in Oncology at the University of Nottingham cultivated critical thinking skills, molecular techniques training, and scientific communication skills that are essential for a graduate research degree.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I enjoy any activity that involves eating and trying cuisines from different cultures. I believe sharing a good meal brings out the best in people and usually sets the platform for some stimulating conversations and illuminating life moments. As such, I love attending and hosting international potlucks with my friends. Additionally, I enjoy outside activities such as hiking, walks, running, and as someone who literally grew up on the beach, I also enjoy swimming. Music is also a source of comfort for me and plays a major part in keeping me sane and relaxed on a daily basis. I believe my friends are secretly embarrassed that I spontaneously sing and dance in public- I hope it is infectious and they will join in one day!
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
To new graduate students, I would say read a lot! If you will be doing a thesis-based project, the goal is to become as much of an authority on your topic as possible; this requires a lot of background reading and keeping abreast of what’s new in your field. Creating your own routine, and having structure helps with managing your time as a grad student, but it is essential to strive for balance! Though graduate school is challenging, it is important to make personal time, delve into new experiences, and generally endorse positive moments for yourself outside of academics that will help maintain your mental and psychosocial faculties.