By the end of my first year, everyone was already talking about the importance of research experience. As I had just been accepted into the BSc. in Psychology program, I knew it was important for me to get some experience in research outside of my classes. But for me, the prospect was daunting.
Where did I start? Who did I need to talk to? With barely any research experience, who was going to take me into their lab as a research assistant?
In response to my worries, a friend had mentioned the Work Learn program to me in passing, and I decided to take a look at the positions on UBC CareersOnline. There were so many different and diverse positions that piqued my interest that I ended up applying to dozens of positions. I ended up landing my top position as a Research Assistant at the National Core of Neuroethics under the supervision of Dr. Julie Robillard, where I’ve been for a year now.
My experience as a Research Assistant in the Work Learn program has exceeded all my expectations. I’ve had the good fortune to work under a fantastic supervisor, who is always friendly and approachable, as well as conscientious about my academic commitments. I thought I’d just be doing routine data entry and paperwork for someone else, but here, I’ve had the freedom and independence to pilot my own project. Now with the help of my supervisor, I’m in the process of writing a scientific paper summarizing our study for publication in an academic journal. I have the opportunity to participate at weekly lab meetings with the Core, composed of faculty members, research associates, and students, and I’ve even had the opportunity to present our research at several conferences, including the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC) at UBC. It was an incredible experience to be able to meet young researchers from such diverse field, and highly inspiring to see their passion for their work.
The name of the Work Learn program is extremely fitting: it is both a flexible part-time job and a valuable learning experience.
Not only have I learned more about the process of scientific research, but I’ve also developed important professional skills such as effective communication and networking. In addition, beyond simply gaining research and work skills, Work Learn has enhanced my academic experience at UBC, as it has helped me to improve my proficiency in scientific writing and to understand my coursework in the context of real research. Furthermore, this position has allowed me to explore my newly kindled interests in ethics and neuroscience, which had hardly crossed my mind before as career choices. During my Work Learn experience, I’ve met academics from abroad and leaders in cutting-edge research. I have not only made valuable professional connections, but speaking to them has also helped me realize where I’d like to see myself in twenty years.
I almost didn’t apply to Work Learn because I didn’t think I’d stand much of a chance getting a position, but now I’m incredibly glad I took the leap. To anyone who’s considering Work Learn, I highly recommend applying. For me, it has opened up so many opportunities that I otherwise would not have discovered, helped me grow professionally, academically, and personally, and has deeply enriched my university experience.