Ricardo's story

The Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award provided Ricardo with an invaluable research experience and opened many doors for him.

Finding passion through the Work Learn Undergraduate Research Award

When I first moved from Bolivia to Canada to attend UBC in 2012, I was impressed by the amount of high-quality research being undertaken on campus. I found the idea of conducting research fascinating and I wanted to give it a try, but I wasn’t sure where to start.  

I actively looked for research opportunities on campus and came across the Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award, which provides international students with funding for full-time research positions in the summer. I reached out to potential supervisors and received a positive response from Dr. Shannon Hagerman, whose CONS 200 class I had taken in my second year and very much enjoyed.  I received the award and was hired as a Research Assistant with the Social-Ecological Systems Research Group (SES).

This position in particular provided a unique and relatively rare opportunity to assist with policy-related research in the field of biodiversity conservation, a topic I’ve always wanted to explore outside of the classroom. Working with the SES Research Group was the perfect opportunity for me to experience what research is about on a day-to-day basis. The full-time workdays allowed me to engage more deeply with the project; so much so, that I started to become obsessed with policy research.

This was also my first time working on a long-term research project. I was excited, but initially I didn’t know what to expect or how to go about it. Luckily, I had the privilege to work closely with my supervisor who guided me throughout the research process and supported me as I worked on the project from scratch. The final deliverable of this summer project was a report that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal to hopefully be published.

Building Connections

Working as a Research Assistant was an invaluable experience that opened many doors for me. I acquired new knowledge (e.g. about biodiversity policy) and skills (qualitative data collection and analysis, critical thinking), and further developed other professional skills and competencies (e.g. oral and written communication). I was able to grow my professional networks through regular interactions with graduate students and faculty and benefit from multiple mentorship opportunities. I also gained a better understanding of graduate school through interactions with the graduate students that worked in the Research Group. I definitely learned much more than I anticipated.

Most importantly, this experience made me realize that I have a passion for research. It gave me the tools and inspiration to come up with a potential topic for my thesis next year, and it has inspired me to attend graduate school so I can ultimately land a research-based career in the future. I’ve learned that the path to research-based careers is not necessarily smooth but I’m confident that it is worth it, at least for me.

I was re-hired part-time in the SES research group in the fall, which has given me the opportunity to continue collaborating with the team and I am very much looking forward to working on future research projects with them. I am tremendously grateful for this experience, and I encourage international students who are interested in conducting research – or think that they might be – to reach out to professors and apply for the award.