International student builds his own adventure at SFU

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June 10, 2019

Since he was an elementary school student in Jordan, Bader Al-Zeer knew that he wanted a career helping people.

Years later, he arrived at SFU and enrolled in French, criminology, calculus, poetry, kinesiology and genetics courses before finally deciding that biomedical physiology would provide the best opportunities for helping people via scientific research and hands-on patient-oriented work.

For Al-Zeer “cramming” meant filling his schedule with research, volunteerism, student politics, rowing and completing a Bachelor of Science honours degree with a major in Biomedical Physiology.

Some of his activities satisfied his thirst for scientific research—including projects ranging from healthy aging, working on nanotherapeutics, pulmonary embolism assessment, investigating zebrafish hearts and leading anatomy dissections.

Al-Zeer says that these projects also helped him develop valuable relationships with professors and peers.

Other projects were devoted to his community, such as working with the Refugee Health Initiative, co-founding the Arab Student’s association, editing for the Science Undergraduate Research Journal and co-creating the Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology department’s Mental Health Committee.

Last semester, Al-Zeer was awarded the Craig Asmundson Engagement Award for his efforts.

Al-Zeer says he started job-hunting in March and that employers were impressed by the breadth of experiences that he managed to attain in his four years as an undergraduate.

Not surprisingly, he received three job offers within the month.

Al-Zeer chose to accept an offer from the nephrology clinical research team at St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospitals. He says, “I am excited about this position as it allows me to work on a wide variety of front-line clinical studies,  both pharmaceutical and academic for kidney patients.”

Ever the multitasker, Al-Zeer says “I had to do some training while finishing up my honours in April, and started full-time the day after my honours thesis defence.”  

As a first-generation university graduate, Al-Zeer says that earning potential is important but “feeling purpose in what I do and making a difference is my source of motivation and will determine how I move forward. I am both thrilled and hopeful for the future.”

When asked what advice he would give to incoming students, Al-Zeer says he could not agree more with Maclean’s magazine’s description of SFU as a “build your own adventure” school.  

“From your very first semester, put yourself out there and try new things.” He wisely adds,  “Of course you will hear “no” every now and then, but learning how to take it in and move forward is part of the process too.”