Courteney Lai, Graduate Student (PhD), Terry Fox Laboratory, BC Cancer Agency Research Centre; and President, Graduate Student and Post Doctoral Society of the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre

The process of becoming a scientist is certainly a complicated one, maybe lifelong. A key part of this process I’ve experienced, that is just as important as learning the science and research methods, is mentorship.

Mentorship has helped me transition from being a new, ‘green’ student to feeling confident in my research and contributing to the team here at the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre (CRC). Naturally, the supervisor-student relationship is one of the most important relationships in a researcher’s academic career. It is the supervising scientist’s responsibility to take the raw potential, enthusiasm, and motivation of their research student and teach them to become a scientist. This includes critically analyzing data, sharing their findings with the scientific community, and helping them determine how best to answer questions and how to determine which are the most important and informative questions to ask. Since I began graduate school, my supervisors Dr. Humphries and Dr. Aparicio have continuously pushed me to think and are always challenging me to examine my own data and determine the next steps.

Mentorship here also extends beyond my supervisors. In my time here, I have been fortunate to work with a number of brilliant and talented colleagues. Even as a co-op student, I remember everyone from my own lab to other graduate students in the department taking an interest in my development as a scientist through challenging me and soliciting my opinion. I feel fortunate to be part of the team here, one that is viewed as a superb research institution with a worldwide reputation.

There is a strong sense of community at the CRC, too. Principal investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and all research staff are extremely supportive of student development and training, and there are many who volunteer their time to provide such opportunities. These opportunities have been invaluable to my training, and they have helped me gain new experience and confidence in my studies. Now, as a graduate student, I have become one of the volunteers that gives back to help teach and train new students—the next cohort of future scientists.

All of the people who influenced me here in my journey as a scientist have also groomed me to become the best scientist I can be. One day, I hope to provide valuable contributions in my field of research, and I couldn’t do it without the mentorship I have received at the BC Cancer Agency.