Jumpstart 2015: The vantage point

Vantage point.

I am often asked about my favourite experience at UBC; by now I have figured that it is no coincidence that my mind flashes back to the August in the summer of 2015. Not only do I remember it as a very rejuvenating experience, I recall it to be high up on my list of the most “efficient” periods of my UBC life. August is the time when the first groups of new students arrive at UBC through the jumpstart orientations program. Having failed to make it in time for my own jumpstart in my first year, I was strongly motivated to support other new international students in ways that I was not lucky enough to experience. This is an opportunity that was proffered to me when I was chosen to be an orientations leader (O.L) for the 2015 Jumpstart orientations program.


With my learning community at Kitsilano.

My roles were centered on co-facilitating orientation for new international students through academic, social and holistic immersion programs. Under the supervision of senior Jumpstart staff, I was part of a closely knit team of over fifty orientations leaders in Totem Park (and over 100 in all residences). My experiences could have easily been limited to the (“job”) roles described above – not to say that they were not cardinal – but there were so many unforeseen pieces of being an orientation leader. There was something exhilarating about being in a position to contribute to the lives of other students here at UBC. I always knew I wanted to find a vantage point to be a positive part of other people’s stories and the jumpstart program turned out to be perfect for this. The connections that I made with the faculty fellows and first year students within my learning community also supported me to grow in leadership and interpersonal relations. Despite following a model for professional relationships, some of these students have turned out to be friends that I have kept in touch with even beyond the two week period.


-With Cindy Shan, my partner O.L.

Closer to my heart however were the experiences I had with other orientation leaders. Having spent a slightly longer time training and meeting daily with this highly motivated group of individuals, I developed very supportive social and professional relationships with many of my colleagues. Since Jumpstart was my first involvement in student development, I was conscious of the fact that I would need support along the way. The sense of community that the team cultivated transcended the support I expected and augmented the energy and impact that I had during the program (and that the program had on me). In many ways, I stepped out of my comfort zone and I still recognize this as a turning point in several aspects of my character and ways of relating to other people. The program required a lot of time and energy, yet also gave a lot of exuberance in return so it was possible to keep


With my O.L squad.

going on from early mornings to late nights. This was to lead to the “Jumpstart hangover” after the three weeks but it was worth every bit of the effort that was put into it. In this same spirit, I developed a good partnership with my Learning community partner (orientation leader) and together we took a step beyond our assigned times to ensure that our learning community created bonds that would last beyond. To this day, I am glad to see students from my learning community that keep in touch and support each other even beyond their first year. It is this “seed” of cohesion that drew me into this role of building community – and spawns the feelings of accomplishment that I attach to my experiences.



With learning community at Beaty Biodiversity museum

My August experience was perhaps a salient personal reflection of efficiency because I was involved in a few other capacities around campus. In this spate of progress, I was accepted into my first role in research at the Chan Yeung Center for Occupational and Environmental respiratory Disease, and also co-organized the 2015 clubs orientation for the Science Undergraduate Society (as the 2015-2016 Clubs Commissioner). I would like to think that I was fairly successful in all the capacities I was involved in at the time. Being part of a warm community in Jumpstart, a driven collaborative network in the Science Undergraduate Society and fundamental scientific (clinical) research merges into one salient memory that has been irrevocably etched in my mind.

I have taken the few past months to reflect on these fast-paced but momentous three weeks of my life. As much I recognize many things that I could have done better (and/or that the program could have done better), I believe these were an amazingly well put 3 weeks that epitomize the highlights of my life at UBC.




Building Biotech 2015.

22nd September 2015.

An eye into the future of Biotechnology.

This year, I was privileged to attend the “Building Biotech dinner and Networking” event organized by the Student Biotechnology Network. Sponsored by the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship, I attended a night full of learning among outstanding figures in the Biotech industry in Canada. This was my first exposure to different role players in the biotechnology industry; I got the opportunity to meet economists, scientists and human resource professionals from different Universities and Biotechnology firms.

Academic research or Biotech industry?

My interactions with three post graduate students have contributed to my knowledge about the conditions of academic research and industry career paths. Since I am in the process of choosing what path will support my professional development and impact, this insight was helpful in helping me organize my own thoughts. Through assessing the challenges of each career path from the personal experiences of the professionals that have taken them; I learnt that the academic path offered more freedom in research than the industry, but offered many challenges as regards career development because of its limited focus on “vertical” development towards a few available professional positions. Overall, this information will add to my thought process for my future decision between the two options.

Economics in Biotechnology.

To my surprise, many of the guests and some of the panelists were economists who sometimes started out as scientists. Through hearing the professional story of Aura Danby, the Territory account manager of Illumina, my understanding of the possible ways to contributions to science have been broadened. Also, the contributions and influence of economic policies and systems on research funding has been illuminated. One particularly interesting highlight of the night was the 5000 percent increase in the price of a vital drug by Turing pharmaceuticals. Though disheartening in its implications for patients that rely on the crucial drug at the time, this “pharmaceutical catastrophe” was crucial in building my understanding of the undeniable influence of economics on my own potential career progression towards medical research and pharmaceuticals. Because scientific research is dependent on funding, it is important to pay keen attention to economic policies and conditions.

Building Biotech 2015: Networking and Dinner.

Building Biotech 2015: Networking and Dinner.


Laboratory research and Graduate school.

Perhaps my biggest take away from this networking event was from my lengthy discussion with Dr. George Haughn, a Biology faculty member who has been involved in Botanical research at UBC for over 20 years. Dr. Haughn’s perspectives on the importance of plant research on human health and survival were insightful. This seemingly distant research is potentially one of the most vital contributors to the future Global Food Economy, and pharmaceutical research.  Furthermore, I got an insight into the vetting process that Faculty members use in choices of funding Graduate students, and laboratory employees. This is fundamental information in my own aspirations for Graduate school and laboratory involvement.

Overall, this has been a momentous event that I am glad to have attended. Scientific research, like my own career goals, isn’t isolated but rather part of a mesh involving very many contributors that must all be factored in making decisions.