Winter 2019 Research Ambassadors (Pilot)

Meet Our Ambassadors

Tsatia Adzich Tsatia Adzich

My name is Tsatia Adzich and I am excited to be part of the first cohort of UNBC Research Ambassadors! I am Cree-Metis with roots in Alberta and the prairies and grew up in Northern BC in Smithers. I graduated from Simon Fraser University with my BA in Communications and First Nations Studies (Honours) in 2015, and from the University of Victoria with an MA in Indigenous Governance in 2017. I started working on my UNBC MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (Geography, Political Science, and Gender Studies) with Dr. Gail Fondahl in September 2017 on a research project based on the Northeastern part of Russia, in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia).  Through storytelling, my research investigates gendered aspects of urban Indigenous community and identity formations in the city of Yakutsk, the largest city in the world built on the permafrost.

I started doing research in my undergraduate degree, with a research-based honours thesis exploring BC-based Metis stories in my hometown of Smithers. Doing research in my own community, with my own family and community members, instilled a passion for research early on and I am committed to encouraging everyone to explore what research uniquely means to them. I am also aware of the responsibilities and power that those doing research have, and hope to have these types of important conversations with students, staff, and faculty as a Research Ambassador. I’m excited to work alongside UNBC to explore, embolden and energize other students about the doors that research can open for them. Ask me about my summer in Siberia!

Emilio Caputo Emilio Caputo

My name is Emilio Caputo and I am in the fifth year of my undergraduate degree at UNBC, soon to graduate with a BA Honours in History with minors in Philosophy and Political Science. I was born and raised in McBride, British Columbia, but came to Prince George in the fall of 2014. I chose UNBC because it offered a sense of community that was reminiscent of my small town upbringing but was large enough to afford me opportunities to obtain prominent positions. The university itself has small class sizes and afforded me a chance to develop my skills through constant conversation, where the faculty know me as an individual. I cherish the personal relationships that I have developed with my professors and other staff members as well as the friendships I share with my fellow students. Being a student at UNBC has meant that I have had the opportunity to travel to different countries, assume positions in student governance, and to build initiatives that are unique in the province. Few schools could have offered me the chance to explore my passions as a community leader and to receive a world-class education as I have these past five years.

UNBC’s History department is unique, in that each of the professors has a wide array of specialties that allow them to offer a variety of courses organized thematically, geographically, and chronologically. Each of these is designed to help students gain the ability to critically analyze and compile evidence in order to construct a persuasive argument, as well as to develop their skills as independent researchers. Doing research as an undergraduate has sharpened my skills as a historian and has made me feel as though the work I am doing is helping to make important contributions to our body of knowledge. Research has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge in new areas and to pursue the areas I am interested in, in a way that is personalized to my talents as an academic. Under the supervision of Dr. Dana Wessell Lightfoot, my Honours thesis focuses on deconstructing ideas of masculinity in the medieval Spanish military orders while also emphasizing the unique importance that Spain plays as part of a continental tradition of crusading. I do so by analyzing and comparing the practices of two of Spain’s most prominent military orders: the Knights Templar and the Order of Santiago. In addition, I have also conducted research on behalf of Dr. Benjamin Bryce, where I documented ideas of race and racialization in the Canadian and American censuses from 1880-1941.

Katherine TimmsKatherine Timms

My name is Katherine (Katie) Timms, and I am an undergraduate student at UNBC double majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Biology. I have lived in Prince George my whole life, though I hope to soon do lots of travelling! I started biomedical research in the summer of 2017, in the lab of Dr. Sean Maurice. I focus on part of the cell microenvironment in the human body, called the extracellular matrix. Particularly, on one large protein called versican, and how it can affect the transition of a cell from normal to cancerous. I think research is a wonderful, hands-on way to learn not only degree-related skills, but also many life skills like problem-solving, work ethic, creative and critical thinking, and persistence. Research has vastly enhanced my undergraduate experience. I am learning valuable technical and personal skills, while also doing meaningful work and gaining experience in my field. I chose UNBC because it is close to home, and I knew prior to coming here that there were many opportunities for student research. I was surprised, however, at how quickly I was able to get a paid research position, and how much UNBC research relies on students. The autonomy I am allowed in conducting research and choosing questions to investigate, and the amount of support I receive from UNBC in the form of grants and research sharing opportunities certainly exceeded my expectations. 

Raliat Abioye Raliat Abioye

My name is Raliat and I am currently in the fourth and final year of my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. My research experience has been split between two labs. The first, and where I have done most of my research in, is with the Rader Lab, which focuses on RNA splicing in eukaryotic systems, specifically in the highly reduced red alga, Cyanidioschyzon merolae. My past project looked at the localization of splicing proteins in C. merolae using fluorescent microscopy techniques. I have since then switched gears and am now following up on an observation made on the degradation process of mRNA in our model organism using similar techniques from my previous project. The second research experience I have had is through my involvement with iGEM (international genetically engineered machine) which is a predominantly student-led research-based competition. Students from various levels of education ranging from high school to doctorate develop a project based on the modification of a pre-existing biological system to create beneficial functions that can be used to solve a problem. Participating teams are then invited to a conference held in Boston to present their projects and meet other competing teams. Our project focused on developing a treatment for MRSA using sRNA mediated gene regulation and inactivated bacteriophages as delivery systems.

Getting involved in research provided me with real-life applications of what I was learning in lectures and teaching laboratories. It gave me context beyond a textbook and showed me how to think critically. As a person who needs to understand why what I am learning is important, research gave me the wholesome context that I struggled to find in the initial years of my degree. It provided me with the avenue to connect the dots and pull all the seemingly loose strings of knowledge together in an interconnected web. Following my first couple of months involved in research, I returned to my classes with a renewed interest and altered perspective than before and it was through this that I was finally able to settle into my degree and enjoy the experience. Research to me is a field that is bursting with different types of opportunities and alternate paths following undergraduate studies. As a biochemistry student, research has broadened what I can do with my degree which is something that worried me going into this degree

I chose UNBC because with it being the local university where I lived, it was the cheapest option where I would be able to commute from home and keep costs low. While I did not know much about research when I initially started at the university, the vast amount of research that goes on here was what I found to be a very pleasant surprise. UNBC is an excellent university to go to if an individual is wanting to try their hands on research which I strongly suggest that every student, regardless of their program, should consider. With many primary investigators available, it is almost guaranteed that you will find a project that piques your interest and a supervisor willing to welcome the individual into their lab. The supervisors are very approachable and interested in student success which is very motivating and encouraging. They make sure to support students in doing their best and all that which adds to the greatness of the experience.

Kristen Kieta Kristen Kieta

Hi! My name is Kristen Kieta and I am a Ph.D. student in the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies program. I completed my M.Sc. at UNBC so have been immersed in the research culture here since 2014. For my master’s research, I studied the effectiveness of vegetated buffer strips, which are a nutrient and erosion reduction strategy employed in agricultural landscapes, on reducing phosphorus transport into streams. For my Ph.D. research, I will be aiming to determine the sources of fine-grained sediments and their transport in the Nechako River Basin.

Research is the lesser understood part of a university, but it is vital because it takes what you learn about in courses and applies it to real-world situations. Before I started doing my own work, research felt like a black box reserved only for famous scientists, but I quickly learned that research can, and should, take many forms. My goal for this program is to open that black box to students like me who never thought that they would be ‘researchers.’ UNBC has been a great fit because even though the university is smaller than most research-intensive institutions, we have faculty doing work at the highest level in a multitude of fields. I knew that the research culture here was often community oriented, encouraging researchers to leave the ‘ivory tower’ and immerse themselves in the places they live or study. The thing that has surprised me the most is the way that researchers, both faculty and students, are willing to go out of their way to support each other. All of the faculty, staff, and fellow students have each other’s best interests in mind, and this makes for an even stronger research program.

Kimberley Thomas Kimberly Thomas

Hi! My name is Kimberley and I am a Master of Science in Health Sciences student here at the University of Northern British Columbia! The MSc Health Sciences program is wonderful for the infinite avenues of research it offers students to take. Peers in my program are conducting incredible health research that ranges from taking quantitative and biomedical approaches, to looking at the intricate relationships between environment and health. Currently, I am motivated to understanding local, community-based palliative service access in rural, northern, and Indigenous geographies, a topic best experienced and learned here at UNBC.  My supervisor is Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, and I work as part of her Health Arts Research Centre team where we use creative, arts-based methods as agents for improving health disparities in the north of our province. The Health Sciences program has effectively allowed me to combine my biological sciences and laboratory-learning background with immersing myself in qualitative, community-informed social science health research. 

Beginning my Masters degree has taught me that research affords the incredible opportunity to answer the “why” behind how things function in our world. Health research today is very interdisciplinary and involves collaborating with diverse groups and rightsholders to enact change. By engaging in research fields firsthand through volunteering experience, honours programs, internships, or community work, it is easier to understand if research is an avenue you are truly passionate about. When I was applying for graduate programs, UNBC was my first-choice school as this university had the perfect program that most aligned with my specific interests. This, in addition to UNBC’s beautiful campus, close-knit relationships, and connection to nature were reasons as to why I moved from Calgary to Prince George!

There are numerous benefits for undergraduate students who get involved in research here at UNBC. The advantage of pursuing your post-secondary education at UNBC is that you truly get more opportunities to network and build connections to jump-start your career as a researcher. UNBC has provided me with incredible opportunities for active involvement in the university, as well as in the town of Prince George. Through studying here, I get to witness innovative research in action every single day. I learn side-by-side with world-renowned researchers who’ve taught me the importance of purposing the learning journey for positive change in our community.

UNBC has absolutely exceeded my expectations in the way faculty and staff genuinely care about student success, and how your dreams and creation of knowledge are valued, encouraged and will have meaning towards shaping the fabric of our university. I truly wake up every day absolutely over the moon to be learning, growing, and discovering at my dream university! It’s amazing to be part of a university culture that consistently reminds you that you are on your way to changing the world!