Fulton wins graduation prize

Oct 02, 2003, vol. 28, no. 3
By Roberta Staley

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Debra Fulton had what most undergraduates would deem to be a dream program - she cherry-picked the courses herself.

Fulton tailored an individualized management and systems sciences (MSSc) undergraduate program for bioinformatics, a young and growing area that combines the use of computers and computational analysis, to study biological problems. The program not only netted Fulton the MSSc graduation prize, but opened the door to a graduate degree in bioinformatics, which is run jointly by SFU, UBC and Vancouver's genome sciences centre.

Fulton, a former information technology consultant in Vancouver, had her sights set on a graduate degree in bioinformatics soon after she started her degree at SFU four years ago. However, there wasn't an undergrad program specifically for bioinformatics. Larry Weldon, the undergraduate studies chair in statistics at SFU, suggested Fulton modify a program to lay the groundwork for the interdisciplinary area of bioinformatics.

Delighted at the thought of creating her own program, Fulton, a Montreal native who attended Riverdale high school, examined course outlines from other universities across North America and sought advice from field experts at SFU. She created a template that included courses in computer science, molecular biology and statistics. Then, she had to seek approval from the various departments to take the courses. “There was a lot of time and effort spent on this. Stakeholder departments and the MSSc directors had to agree with the program, but they were all supportive,” Fulton says.

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