Senior Scientist, STEMCELL Technologies
I was born/grew up in: Vancouver, BC
I now live in: Vancouver, BC
I completed my training/education at: Ph.D – Simon Fraser University. Burnaby, British Columbia. Canada. In the group of Dr. Nicholas Harden.
Post-Doctoral Research – Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA). Vienna, Austria. In the group of Dr. Juergen Knoblich.
Describe what you do at work.
During a normal week, I will meet with the members of my group both as a whole and individually to discuss the specific research. We share information and try to benefit from everyone’s different experiences and diversity to advance the research and make breakthroughs. I am also responsible for keeping up with what is currently going on in the field of intestinal research. This I do through reading current scientific literature, attending conferences and communicating with colleagues. From this information, I try my best to determine what is needed to support the advancement of all research and establish a way to create and provide that through STEMCELL Technologies.
I see our projects as trying to solve a puzzle. For example, we know the human body produces everything necessary to maintain its own intestinal tract. We just have to figure out what these things (pieces of the puzzle) are and create this outside of the body.
A STEM background is an absolute requirement as many of the science disciplines are necessary to determine the correct course of research to take on the various projects Although most of my work is in the biochemical sciences, it also has aspects of technology, engineering and math. This allows for extra diversity to keep things exciting.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
We are very fortunate that we get to see how what we do directly affects people’s lives. Our company’s motto is “Scientists Helping Scientists”. Many of the scientists we work directly with have been able to use our technology in drug screening or identifying particular aspects of a patient’s disease. These diagnostics have led to better treatments. There are also examples of findings that would not have been possible without our technology, that have led to treatments that have saved the patient’s lives.
What motivates you in your career?
I am motivated by discovery. Scientific research is the greatest field for this because the job never ends. We continue to ask biological questions and work hard to find the answers but when we do, these just lead to a deeper level of questioning. The more we learn, the more we are able to share this with people around the world asking similar questions, all with a goal to further understand the human body and disease. It is very satisfying knowing that even though I am technically working at one place, the research conducted here connects us to any and every scientist in the world that could benefit from our findings. It is the challenge that comes from the research and interactions with others working towards a similar goal that makes the career personally rewarding for me.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
When I was younger I wanted to be a baseball player (I still do but I realize my age and injuries are working against me). It was necessary to change that focus in my life. As I was learning science through courses in high school and university, I knew I wanted a career that involved science but I was not sure what it was. I originally thought a position in medicine was what I wanted. It was not until I realized that it was the discovery rather than the application I found most fascinating that I started to work towards the career I have today.
I was incredibly fortunate to work with two wonderful mentors during my postgraduate studies and training. From Dr. Harden at SFU and Dr. Knoblich at IMBA, I learned different ways of addressing problems. One of the most important lessons that both of these individuals were able to teach me is perseverance and having the ability to learn from your setbacks and failures. Almost every day in the research field there are findings that are unexpected. Rather than seeing these as problems, they can be considered new opportunities to explore a different line of thinking.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I am fortunate to have family, friends and colleagues that have very diverse interests and I find fun in many of these interactions. I love sports and always try to have some type of athletic activity in my life. I also try to give back to my community by volunteering in academic, athletic or basic humane activities.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Try as many different areas as possible. Each research lab as well as academic versus industry institutions, function slightly differently. If you want to challenge yourself in a difficult position, you must be able to enjoy and love what you do enough to compensate for the difficult times and constant challenges. Find an environment that supports how you function best with respect to responsibilities and independence. Most importantly, do not get discouraged. Realize that most people you admire and see as role models were at one time in the same position you are.