FASS News, Psychology, New faculty

SFU Psychology welcomes new lecturer Diana Lim

August 25, 2020

Diana Lim has recently joined the Department of Psychology as a lecturer, coming to Simon Fraser University with a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include a focus on neuroplasticity, network analysis and stroke recovery. 

In describing the connection between these research interests, she explains, “there are drastic network-wide changes in the brain immediately after a stroke, but over a period of weeks to months, the network compensates and recovers to some extent. This capacity for the brain to change is known as neuroplasticity.”

Prior to her appointment at Simon Fraser University, Lim had taught introductory Psychology courses at Concordia University.

In a recent interview, Lim explains what brought her to SFU and the motivation behind her research interests. This fall, she will be teaching PSYC 102 (Introductory Psychology II) as well as PSYC 109W (Brain, Mind, and Society).

What brought you to Simon Fraser University?

Simon Fraser University is the perfect kind of institution for me: It’s large enough that there are all kinds of classes offered, there’s cutting-edge research going on in a variety of fields, and it draws people from all over the world. At the same time, SFU is small enough that it is easy to get around campus and it feels like a close-knit community. For me, these are the perfect conditions for teaching and learning. As a lifelong learner and bibliophile, I’m very happy to be working in this environment.

What inspired you to study Neuroscience?

I was always drawn to psychology and biology, but I didn’t know a lot about neuroscience at the beginning of my undergraduate degree. The first neuroscience course that I took was “Introduction to Brain and Behaviour”, taught by Dr. Ian Whishaw at the University of Lethbridge. Dr. Whishaw was a fantastic teacher and storyteller, and that class really sparked my interest in neuroscience. I went on to do my undergraduate thesis in Dr. Whishaw’s lab, and it was in his lab that I learned about stroke and the multitude of questions surrounding the disease – the fact that there were still so many unanswered questions about such an important and prevalent disease both intrigued and puzzled me, and I knew that I wanted to stick with these questions for a while.

How did your research interests in neuroplasticity, stroke recovery, and network analysis get started?

My undergraduate research focused on behavioural recovery after a stroke (for example, how will reaching behaviours change after a stroke has occurred?). At the end of my degree, I had many more questions about what goes on within the brain after a stroke, and I joined Dr. Timothy Murphy’s lab at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Murphy’s lab uses a number of sophisticated techniques to image the mouse brain. I used several of these techniques to start looking at how the cortical networks were set up in the mouse brain. From there, we asked the question: what happens to this cortical network if a small stroke occurs? We saw that there are drastic network-wide changes immediately after stroke, but over a period of weeks to months, the network compensates and recovers to some extent. This capacity for the brain to change is known as neuroplasticity, and it fascinates me to think that our brains are constantly changing and adapting.

What are you most looking forward to in working at SFU and also in the Department of Psychology?

I’m very glad to join a department that offers such a wide variety of classes and depth of expertise in the faculty. This fall, I’m teaching PSYC 102 (Introductory Psychology II) and PSYC 109W (Brain Mind and Society), but I hope to branch out to other classes in the cognitive and neural science domain in the future.

Do you have any advice to students who may want to consider graduate school or a career in Psychology?

Studying psychology will give you an excellent foundation for many different career paths. The field of psychology is so vast that students should explore widely during their undergraduate degree - take all kinds of classes (even some you aren’t sure you’ll like!), attend seminars or lectures by SFU faculty or visiting scholars, and pay attention to events going on in the Psychology Department.

Graduate school is both very rewarding and very challenging.  Students who are considering graduate school should try to get as much hands-on experience in research as they can - participate in research, volunteer in a lab, or do a directed study. Graduate school will take several years to complete, so you want to make sure you are interested in the subject matter (and interested in doing research) before you commit to spending years on it.