Co-op helps students chase their dreams

September 23, 2004, vol. 31, no. 2
By Carol Thorbes

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A Simon Fraser University graduate who is now a successful scholar and scientist credits SFU's on-the-job, co-operative education with helping him attain his dream career.

“Prior to entering the SFU co-op program in my second year, I was not aware of the career pathways available through the BSc curriculum in biological sciences. I had always been interested in research on human health and disease, but we had limited exposure to biomedical research at the practical level in classrooms,” says David Granville.

The 1994 SFU grad is now an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of British Columbia.
SFU co-op terms at disease control and health protection laboratories and drug research companies sparked Granville's interest in biomedicine.

He is one of three prominent science co-op grads participating in Dreamchasers, a seminar at SFU on Oct. 7. The trio will discuss their work, biomedical research and how their co-op experience got them into it from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Images theatre on the Burnaby campus.

“Without the co-op opportunity, I would not have got my first position as a technician at QLT when I graduated from SFU. It is this experience and the references that followed which enabled my entry into graduate studies,” explains Granville.

After four co-op jobs and graduate studies, Granville took up a research position at QLT and subsequently, the Scripps Research institute.

Now at iCapture centre at St. Paul's hospital, Granville researches how a programmed form of cell death goes awry and leads to cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.
Granville says co-op experience increasingly gives students a leg up in biomedical research, a highly competitive field.

Mario Pinto, SFU's new VP-research, notes that SFU is increasingly graduating stellar biomedical researchers, whose labs are fertile ground for mentoring co-op students. “For example, SFU grad Marco Marra helped sequence the first animal genome, the human genome and the SARS virus,” Pinto adds.

“Angela Brooks-Wilson, now the head of cancer genetics at the Michael Smith genome sciences centre, identified the gene responsible for Tangier disease. She was a SFU co-op student.”

Terry Roemer, director of fungal genomics and operations at Elitra in Montreal, and Nina Reiniger, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, are the other SFU science co-op grads participating in Dreamchasers.

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