Image credit: Alexander Wyatt

One year into my fellowship I was funded as a ‘Young Investigator’ by the Prostate Cancer Foundation (a non-profit organization credited for funding many of the great scientific breakthroughs in the prostate cancer research field over the past 25 years). Immediately I was part of a global community of like-minded early-career researchers. I am not really sure how it happened, perhaps it is about seeing so many brilliant peers forge their own scientific discoveries, but I found that my fascination of genomics became a singular focus to learn more and to make a difference myself. I still didn’t have a long term plan, but I knew that I wanted to lead my own research team—simply because that seemed like the best way to make things happen faster!

Towards the point in my training when I was beginning to look for independent positions, I discovered a distinguished mentor (Dr. Kim Chi) in Vancouver who provided the perfect medical oncology foil to my genomics background. Truly translational genomics research is facilitated by access to patient specimens, and with the support of Kim, I was able to plan a faculty position in Vancouver, founded upon the unfortunately steady stream of men flowing through the Vancouver urology and oncology clinics. Almost four years later I am as overworked and stressed as ever, but I have never doubted for a second that I made the correct decisions. It is an absolute privilege to have benefitted from years of higher education and public funding, and to be simultaneous trying to repay that gift while doing the very work that fascinates me most.

Scientific research is >99% failure and set-backs. It is very easy to ignore the few successes, and simply focus on the next task in hand. I did a terrible job of celebrating success as a new faculty. If I could speak to my younger self I would tell him to enjoy the wins—and not just the awarded grants and published papers, but the smaller successes: the students winning scholarships, grant applications finally being submitted, presentations that were well-received.

Finally, I would tell myself to take advantage of the troughs in between deadlines: both to recuperate but also to consolidate. It is too easy to get into the habit of relying on last-minute panic and intensity to meet deadlines!

This interview was conducted by Senior Editor, Dominique Morneau