Personal Profiles

Biotech Alumni.

Antoinette Cheung graduated from the UBC-BCIT joint Honors in Biotechnology program in 2008. After graduation, she began working at SignalChem Pharmaceuticals as a research assistant, where she supported the development and quality assurance of antibody products. In 2012, Antoinette received her Master of Public Health at the University of Manchester. During her first year of studies in the program, Antoinette continued working at SignalChem. Subsequently, she began facilitating research studies on the treatment and management of spinal cord injury at the Rick Hansen Institute as a research coordinator. After receiving her master’s degree, Antoinette worked as a clinical research coordinator for one year at UBC, where she was involved with carrying out clinical trials for multiple sclerosis treatments. In 2015, Antoinette joined Precision Health Economics as an associate research scientist, where she consolidated clinical trials data comparing the safety and efficacy of different therapeutics for pharmaceutical clients. Most recently, she took a role with Vancouver Coastal Health”s Tobacco Reduction Program to manage region-wide initiatives implementing BC”s new smoke-free policies. In her spare time, Antoinette mentors high school girls in YMCA Metro Vancouver’s High School Mentorship Program and manages a Vancouver Coastal Health website that promotes tobacco-free lives to youth.

Antoinette Cheung

@2008

Caitlin Der graduated from the UBC-BCIT Honours in Biotechnology program in 2010. During her time in the program, she had the opportunity to partake in a total of three co-op work terms. In her first co-op placement, Caitlin worked at a UBC plant lab investigating the invasiveness of plants using bioinformatics and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Her second position involved environmental analysis at an industrial company. During her final co-op work term, Caitlin studied the relatedness of cell signaling in diabetes and pancreas cancer at an academic lab at UBC. In 2011, after graduation from the program, Caitlin got a job at STEMCELL as Quality Control (QC) Analyst, where she tested STEMCELL’s products to ensure that the company’s quality standards are met. Caitlin then got the opportunity to work on group projects aiming to improve quality, decrease costs, develop risk mitigation strategies and lean internal processes. This slowly transferred to her current job in Quality Assurance (QA) which involves monitoring good manufacturing practices and making sure that foundations of quality management are effective. She is currently an active board member of American Society for Quality (ASQ)”s Vancouver Section.

Caitlin Der

@2010

Dona Sharma is currently pursuing her PharmD in the Entry to Practice Doctor of Pharmacy program at UBC. She has also been part of the Drug Delivery Division at the Centre of Drug Research and Development (CDRD), a Canadian non-profit organization, for the last 5 years in the role of an Analytical Technician. In 2010 Dona earned her BSc. degree from the UBC-BCIT Honours in Biotechnology program. Working diligently in the program and multiple co-op jobs, Dona attained high marks and learned valuable skills.  Her last of the three co-op positions included eight months at CDRD which lead to her current position. Dona has always been passionate about expanding her knowledge and staying up to date. In addition to being committed to her work, Dona recently decided to pursue her dream of enhancing her knowledge in the clinical application of pharmaceuticals. Dona believes that the Biotechnology program not only prepares students for future careers with hands-on experience, but also provides them with an insight into diverse career opportunities in the field. When finding a co-op position Dona emphasizes the importance of being honest, genuine, interested, independent, and willing to learn, in addition to extracurricular activities. Her advice to current Biotechnology students is to stay focused on their goals and look for relevant co-op opportunities, but also to enjoy the learning process at the same time.

Dona Sharma

@2010

After graduating from the joint UBC-BCIT Honours in Biotechnology program in 2011, Eliana Pouchard worked at Response Biomedical, Viva Pharmaceuticals, Abbott and then Johnson & Johnson in Toronto. Eliana’s work has ranged from cardiovascular research, olfactory research and ophthalmology to natural health products. Eliana had always wanted to work in Big Pharma and Johnson & Johnson is a good fit for her as Toronto has a larger biotechnology industry than Vancouver. Abbott is a major American pharmaceutical corporation with a large range of products from nutrition to diagnostics and pharmaceuticals. Eliana worked in quality assurance, working with Health Canada to ensure Abbott’s products comply with regulations.  She now works as a Medical Events Specialist with the Product Safety department at Johnson & Johnson Vision, where she assures compliance to global regulatory requirements. Travelling for work has taken her to Brazil, California, Arizona, Quebec and Montreal.  Her work varies greatly, and can include handling product recalls, scheduled audits from Health Canada, and analyzing lab results.  She trains other employees and also writes reports to the FDA, Health Canada, and internal investigations. Eliana hopes to move up in quality assurance, get an MBA and earn a management position. Eliana emphasizes that; for work at a biotechnology company, a science background is critical for understanding the products and protocols. While in the biotechnology program, Eliana’s favourite courses involved quality and regulatory practices, genetics, and fermentation. The marketing and accounting courses in the program opened her eyes to business. The co-op work experience and the heavy workload were very beneficial in preparing her for the industry.

Eliana Pouchard

@2011

Dr. Grace Leung graduated from the UBC-BCIT Honours in Biotechnology program in 2008 and promptly commenced her PhD in Genetics at UBC. Studying as a PhD student with Dr. Michael Kobor at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, Grace co-authored four publications investigating the DNA damage protein Rtt107 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. After completing her PhD in 2014, Grace began pursuing her postdoctoral fellowship in the oncology group at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Grace’s project focuses on understanding abnormal signalling through mutated pathways in melanoma and how we can manipulate it for therapeutic benefit. During her time as an undergrad, Grace worked her first co-op term in Dr. Michael Kobor’s lab at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT)—the same lab she would return to for her PhD study. Her second co-op term was in Dr. Eric Cohen’s lab at the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal (IRCM) in Montreal where she investigated the HIV protein Vpu. Grace’s final co-op work term as an undergraduate student was at QLT Inc.’s Dermatology department, where she studied the effects of drug treatments on primary human skin cell lines. From the hands-on nature of her undergraduate Biotechnology program, Grace developed an early passion for research during her time in co-op. Grace also attributes her numerous undergraduate co-op opportunities to the intensive laboratory work present in the Biotechnology program, which she believes gave her the competitive edge over other co-op applicants. Furthermore, the Honours credential linked with the Biotechnology program allowed Grace to enter her PhD program without acquiring a Master’s degree, allowing her the perfect opportunity to dive into her passion for research with a running start.

Dr. Grace Leung

@2008

A Vancouver resident since age 12, Helen Wong graduated from the UBC-BCIT Honours in Biotechnology Program and later pursued a Master in Science degree in Experimental Medicine at UBC. Helen completed her Master’s thesis on the presence of protein deposits in the pancreas that are correlated to type II diabetes.  Through the co-op program, Helen has previously worked for two academic research labs at UBC, a federally funded research lab in Germany and within the biotechnology industry at Amgen. Helen currently works for Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories (ELL) as Scientist III Group Leader in the Professional Scientific Services (PSS) department, which provides highly skilled scientists and researchers to serve large pharmaceutical companies as clients. Helen is working in Vancouver as the first ELL PSS employee in Canada. Her current team is growing under her supervision to a total of 2 team members, so that they may manage a greater volume of scientific services. Primarily, her position involves creating cell-based functional assays for pharmaceutical drug development and her secondary tasks include hiring new workers and supervising her team. Helen advises others to consider the Honours in Biotechnology program because it offers a mandatory co-op education program, a Diploma, an Honours Degree, and prepares students for work in a wide variety of health science fields. She also emphasizes the importance of the lab skills taught in the Biotechnology program as well as the small class sizes and opportunities for collaboration with fellow scholars. Helen recommends prospective students “You can have so many options [with the Biotech program]; take this opportunity and explore.

Helen Wong

@2013

A graduate from the UBC-BCIT joint Biotechnology program, Dr.Maria J Aristizabal is currently working at the laboratory of Dr. Michael S. Kobor’s Lab at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT). Following the completion of her Doctoral degree in Genetics in February 2015, Maria now independently conducts her own post-doctorate research focused on the molecular mechanisms of gene expression regulation using Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model organism. As a graduate from the Biotechnology program, Maria is equipped with lab skills that she would not had gotten anywhere else.    Maria also emphasizes the importance of remaining knowledgeable – you have to constantly read up-to-date literature to understand your research question and know the most recent advances in your field. At least once a year she also gets the opportunity to attend scientific conferences.  She has travelled to Italy and Aruba, where she enjoyed the opportunity to share ideas and exchange knowledge with other researchers around the world.   Co-op experiences played a key role in Maria’s career path.  Maria did her second co-op at CMMT and decided to continue working there after graduation because “the training environment is fantastic and the research community is very vibrant.”   Before her 8 month co-op at CMMT, Maria also had a co-op experience at H.E.A.L. which focused on herbal medicine and its standardization. Grabbing all the valuable co-op experiences she could get before graduation, her last position was in at the University of California San Francisco in a laboratory working on mapping genetic interaction. Maria emphasizes that reference letters from her co-op positions were key to securing future employment positions. Maria suggests Biotech students if interested should not hesitate to apply to co-op positions abroad because they are excellent opportunities to travel and expand your social network.

Dr. Maria J Aristizabal

@2003

After graduating from the joint Biotechnology program at UBC and BCIT in 2008, Mark McCabe began work for the BC Center for Disease Control (BCCDC) Public Health Laboratory (PHL). His involvement in communicable disease surveillance and outbreak response with the PHL inspired him to pursue a Master of Public Health at UBC. He is now an epidemiologist or “disease detective” with th e BCCDC Communicable Disease Prevention and Control team, where he contributes to efforts to reduce rates of antimicrobial resistance in the province, and monitors travel-related diseases in BC such as Zika virus. He will soon begin training as a federal Field Epidemiologist, travelling to the front lines of where outbreaks and public health emergencies are happening to support control and response. The Biotechnology program strongly influenced Mark’s career development.  With its challenging and well-rounded curriculum, an abundance of practical experience through labs and co-op placements, and opportunities to develop essential professional skills such as networking and collaboration, Mark believes the experience helped shape his personality, skills, confidence, and leadership. Having so much hands-on training helped separate him and his abilities from competing students from other programs. Mark has always had an interest in working with microbes, and exposure to the different areas of biotechnology allowed him to recognize his passion to work in public health minimizing the impact of pathogens in the population. The joint Biotechnology program provided him with the strong foundation and confidence to pursue his desired career path.

Mark McCabe

@2008

Petra Schreiner graduated from the UBC-BCIT Honours in Biotechnology Program in 2010. During her co-op experiences Petra moved from ICORD to the James Hogg Research Centre at St. Paul’s Hospital, and then to Tekmira Pharmaceuticals. Driven by a passion for science, Petra has had laboratory jobs in three different sectors: academic, public and industry. After graduating from the Honours program in 2010, Petra volunteered at a UBC/Fisheries and Oceans Canada research center in West Vancouver in order to maintain her lab skills. Petra later worked as Research Assistant in UBC and eventually applied to graduate school, in the lab of Dr. Michael Underhill, and in 2014 obtained a Master of Science degree in Cell and Developmental Biology. After receiving her M.Sc., Petra returned to work full-time at Arbutus Biopharma (formerly Tekmira Pharmaceuticals) where she is mainly involved in research. Petra’s specific focus is on formulation development with Arbutus” lipid nanoparticle platform, which is used to encapsulate and deliver siRNA and mRNA therapeutics. In addition to research and manufacturing, Petra is a Biosafety Officer, making sure that safe and proper laboratory practices are being followed by her fellow colleagues.

Petra Schreiner

@2010

Dr. Thomas Fung graduated from the UBC-BCIT Biotechnology program in 2010 and obtained his Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. He currently works as a postdoctoral scholar under Dr. Elaine Hsiao at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on the links between the gut microbiota and the neuroimmune system in the context of neurological disorders, including autism, anxiety and depression. As an undergraduate, Thomas was exposed to many disciplines of science and research before discovering his passion for immunology. His position as an undergraduate research assistant under Dr. Colby Zaph at the University of British Columbia ultimately motivated him to pursue a career in research and enroll in the Penn immunology graduate program. The extensive lab training offered by the Biotechnology program helped Thomas transition smoothly into his graduate and postdoctoral work. He especially enjoyed his time at BCIT as he was able to interact closely with both his peers and professors on a daily basis. He also learned the importance of evaluating and pursuing his scientific interests during this time. As a postdoctoral scholar, Thomas enjoys the opportunity to lead independent research projects, apply innovative experimental approaches to address questions of interest and discuss his work with colleagues at local and international meetings. He is constantly presented with new challenges in the laboratory and treats these challenges as opportunities for growth as a scientist and critical thinker.

Dr. Thomas Fung

@2010