CBR Graduate Profile – Rhonda Thygesen

Rhonda Thygesen.

Rhonda Thygesen.

Which lab and what degree were you pursuing at UBC and CBR? What was your research about?

I was in Dr. Leonard Foster’s lab in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology pursuing my MSc. My research was on honey bee health in highbush blueberry crops in the lower mainland. I used proteomics to investigate biomarkers associated with pesticide and pathogen stress in blueberries. 

What inspired you to pursue your program?

It was my college professors who inspired me to pursue graduate school because I want to pursue a career in undergraduate teaching and mentoring. I also had great mentors through summer work who introduced me to honey bee research and the field of applied science. At the time I wanted to explore a molecular approach to pollinator health and work with a top Canadian researcher, and that’s what brought me to UBC and Leonard’s lab. 

What is one piece of advice you would give a new grad student?

My advice would be to take full advantage of the opportunities around you. I got to try so many new experiences during my masters including guest lecturing, writing sci comm articles, attending conferences, and more. There is also so much to do outside of your studies. Make sure your work and life are balanced and do the things you love. For me this meant starting to cycle, learning to climb, improving my skiing, more backpacking than I ever had time to do, and kayaking and trail running becoming key parts of my life. I was encouraged by my supervisor to pursue new opportunities in and out of academia and it truly helped me flourish. 

Most memorable part of your graduate student experience?
Rhonda Thygesen in front of the mountains.

Rhonda Thygesen in front of the mountains.

This is a tough one, I’ve been fortunate to have many great experiences throughout grad school! I will talk about two experiences. I always enjoy the lab trips that Leonard coordinates every summer. I got to go to two trips – one to Mt Assiniboine just outside of Banff, Alberta where we stayed for a week in cabins and hiked or fished by the lake and mountains during the days. We also paddled by sea kayak the Deer Group islands outside of Bamfield, BC and spent the week paddling, relaxing, cooking, and enjoying each other’s company on a white sandy beach. Lastly, in September 2023 myself, Leonard, and one of my closest colleagues from the lab travelled to Santiago, Chile for the Apimondia 2024 conference. We spent 10 days in Santiago while attending the conference and also took time after the conference to head to Cajon del Maipo in the Southeastern Andes, where we stayed for a few days hiking the surrounding mountains and staying in an off-grid cabin overlooking a valley of the Andes. I am grateful for all the experiences and fun times I have had with my colleagues who have now become my friends.  

What is your favourite non-academic activity?

I love to adventure outdoors and throughout my masters spent a lot of time finding ways to do that. I am a big backcountry skier and currently am working at a remote backcountry lodge in the Selkirk mountains. I am also a certified kayak guide with the SKAGBC in the summertime. I also trail run, backpack, bike, and climb. If I am not busy doing something outside, I am likely reading or knitting.