Christine Wardell

Engineering T cell immunotherapies to promote health in transplantation
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

My first experience in a lab was the summer before I entered my grade 12 year of high school. One of the lab members showed me live imaging of immune cells rolling through the blood and into an animal's tissue to fight off an infection. I was visualizing what I had just started to read about in textbooks with my own eyes and in real time. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. And so I was hooked; ever since, I've been captivated by the immune system. I've pursued my graduate degree to discover as much as I can about this elegant system.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC is a world-class institution; it has provided me with the resources I need to address the questions that our lab is pursuing. Moreover, it hosts a really great range of academics, who I have found to be very collaborative.

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

I joined UBC to work with Dr. Megan Levings. Dr. Levings is one of the best Immunologists in Canada and a leader in the field of regulatory T cell biology. Moreover, she is a generous mentor. I feel very lucky to be learning from her and her team.

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

The mountains and the biking. I feel a lot of joy when I'm hiking or skiing, or biking through the city. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to live in a city that offers me such a great work-life balance; I spend a lot of time in the lab, but never feel overworked because I can so easily recharge outdoors.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I'm in a lab that is constantly teaching me new techniques. Right now, I'm focused on finally learning some of the live imaging skills that originally piqued my interest in immunology. I'm really excited to answer new questions with these new approaches.

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

I completed a BSc at McMaster University and an MSc in Immunology at Western University before arriving in Vancouver. The research experiences I gained at both institutions allowed me to enter Dr. Levings lab with the confidence to pursue new immunology questions.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

In my spare time I enjoy doing pottery!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

I think it's easy to justify making "temporary" sacrifices in the non-work parts of your life during graduate school. I don't believe that's necessary to be successful. Strive for balance; having a good work-life balance and setting limits has personally kept me motivated in the lab and I've never felt burnt out. Plus, if you're committed to an academic career, it doesn't necessarily get easier. Don't let your younger years pass by without enjoying them.


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