CBR Member Profile: Deb Chen

Deb Chen has been an integral member of the CBR in the Devine Lab since 2012 and has been involved in numerous activities. On Monday, November 27th, Deb defended her thesis to earn her PhD. Congratulations, Dr. Deb! Read on to find out more about Deb’s insights regarding her academic journey and what she has been up to during her time at the CBR.

In a nutshell, what has been the focus of your research?

My research has focused on identifying protein markers that may be predictive for the development of storage hemolysis in red cell concentrates; that is, the rupture of the red blood cell and its subsequent release of hemoglobin-rich cytosolic content.

What did you enjoy most about the PhD process?

 I enjoyed the exploration of different learning opportunities, within the CBR and beyond.

I’ve participated in various opportunities within the CBR and have been encouraged to develop educational programs for our own members – from teaching high school students through our Blood Labs Outreach program, writing a few posts for the KT committee, planning social events with the Health & Wellness committee, to designing and delivering science writing and 3MT workshops. I’m grateful that the CBR Educational Program offered so many opportunities to meet my learning and professional development needs.

Outside of the CBR, I was involved with the UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) as a graduate facilitator. This experience was instrumental in allowing me to gain insight into my own learning process and establishing an interdisciplinary network through working with other graduate students and faculty members. This was a big anchor for me throughout my graduate studies and my involvement with CTLT has helped me land my new position as an Educational Developer.

Deb Chen

Another cornerstone throughout my PhD was the Vancouver Crisis Centre. I have volunteered over 500 hours with the Vancouver Crisis Centre since November 2012 and have transitioned to a staff role training and supporting volunteers in taking calls and chats. I was able to find meaning and gain perspective through supporting members of our local community and through empowering those in distress to help themselves. In addition to being able to give back to the community, I discovered beautiful friendships and an amazing support network through genuine connections with my fellow volunteers and staff.

I was also involved with Students for Science-Based Medicine, a MUS/AMS club at UBC, translating scientific findings in literature for the lay public related to alternative and complementary medicine. Through the delivery of educational workshops and free public events, we were able to engage in critical discussions with members of our local communities about how to make informed decisions related to health and how to ask critical questions.

The theme of all that I’ve done relates to people. The reason for my continual involvement in these exploratory undertakings has been because of the people I’ve worked with; they’ve challenged me to grow within my various capacities, embraced my mistakes, and celebrated my risk-taking and achievements.

What insight can you provide into the job search experience for others who are finishing up a graduate degree?

I devoted a lot of time every day to browsing jobs and connecting with my existing network to help me identify my strengths and to articulate what I wanted for my next step. This has been a process where I’ve needed to be persistent in continually looking for opportunities and letting my network know what I wanted to do. Your network holds you accountable and can direct you to opportunities you might not otherwise have access to.

My approach was to dedicate at least 1 hour every day during the thesis writing process to figure out all of these career pieces and how they aligned with what I wanted to do.

What has been the most valuable thing you’ve gained from your experience at the CBR?

The network, the people, and the opportunities that came with the CBR as a package that I’ve been happily exploiting. 🙂

What advice do you have for current grad students, knowing what you know now?

Try things that scare you. Create protected time to explore things that might not be fully aligned with your research (within reason of course; I don’t want to get you in trouble with your supervisors). Be open and curious about new opportunities, because you never know how the things you learn or gain (whether that’s a skill or an insight into yourself) may inform or support your future goals.

What has helped you maintain work/life balance?

Connecting with friends, hiking, bouldering, running, cycling, reading (NOT academic articles).

It was a process to not take myself so seriously and to not put so much emphasis on my “success.” I worked on not letting my research results influence my emotions and on leaving my research on the bench during evenings and on weekends. Seeking out activities that helped me find meaning in the work I’m doing has given me perspective, as well as my engagement in roles outside my research. I don’t think it would have been possible for me to gain these perspectives if I had only focused on my research alone.

What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?

Currently, cardamom from Earnest Ice Cream.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

The ability to warp time so that I could have more sleep! 🙂

What is a little known fact about you?

My roommates and I keep three chickens. Their names are Eggness, Korlis, and Meryl.

Deb would be happy to answer your questions and to share her experiences with graduate students. She can be contacted at debchen@mail.ubc.ca.


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