Filyk, Heather

Faculty of Science
Master of Science
Dr. Lisa Osborne
Ottawa, Canada
CIHR Graduate Scholarships
Exploring how gastrointestinal viruses, bacteria, and parasites influence immune homeostasis, health, and disease.
I perform research looking at transkingdom interactions in the murine gastrointestinal tract – how viruses, bacteria, and parasites interact with one another to ultimately influence host health. Dysregulated interactions and communication across these kingdoms have been linked to various chronic inflammatory diseases (e.g. asthma) and autoimmune diseases (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease). I aim to uncover which of these multiple cross-kingdom interactions are particularly influential to host health and to ultimately discover ways to introduce or ameliorate these complicated cross-kingdom interactions to improve many facets of human health.
Life in Vancouver is amazing. I am able to go on many 'vacations' a year – atypical for graduate student life, but a two hour drive and a long hike will immerse you deep into the wilderness. Since being here I have done many tough but exhilarating multi-day backpacking trips, ski trips, I have taken up ice and rock-climbing, and I've already been swimming in the ocean (early May) at Kitsilano beach, which is 15 minutes from my doorstep. This led me to the best surprise about UBC: the Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC). I highly recommend that everyone look into it!
I decided to study at UBC because of my Principal Investigator (Dr. Lisa Osborne), the department I am apart of (Microbiology and Immunology), and the beautiful building I work in (the Life Sciences Centre). My supervisor is a wonderful human being, mentor, and scientist. The Microbiology and Immunology program provides a unique 'how to be a graduate student' course, which instilled a major sense of camaraderie amongst my incoming graduate year and taught us the basics or 'how to' of gradate school, which I found to be very helpful.

I have always been keen to contribute to society. After dabbling in other fields, I determined that pursuing health sciences is the area where I could provide the largest societal impact – for now. My graduate studies excite me; I am able to perform research, critically analyze the data that I, myself, have generated, attend lectures just for the sake of learning, collaborate with other researchers, write reviews for scientific journals, and develop ideas into practical use. For me, pursuing graduate studies was a no brainer, but I remain open to many future career options, and in my short time as a graduate student, I have acquired many 'soft' skills that I see transferrable to various professions.

Honestly, I believe the future of "careers" as we know them now is a bit illusive. So I would have to say that finding or obtaining that prototypical career would be a big challenge, if that is what I'm searching for. But I foresee myself moving a lot and having many different jobs, so adapting to each one will be challenging. Most of all, I would have to say that the prospect of having children and a family seems like an immense and intimidating challenge; however, recently I have spoken to female scientists and mentors who have convinced me that it is possible to do both, successfully.
I think my graduate degree, at least how I am shaping it for myself, is preparing me very well for these challenges. I have taken on many roles and responsibilities as a graduate student. I have been mentored, I have become a mentor, I have taught many people – from young to old, I have made countless presentations, I have been writing a lot, I have analyzed many different data sets in many different ways, and I have become a much better organizer and planner.