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Student Profile: Vienna Chichi Lam
Vienna Lam is a Ph.D. student, educator, ethics board member, and researcher at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Forensic Research and School of Criminology. With a keen focus on aquatic rescue, recovery, and repatriation, the impact of Vienna’s research on aquatic bone decomposition has earned her international recognition as the Forensic Science Foundation and CRC Press 2019 top student travel award winner. Ranking 8th in the nation for her discipline, Vienna has used her funding as a CGS-D SSHRC doctoral scholar to undertake international experimental research on aquatic body decomposition from a medicolegal and forensic anthropological perspective. In the community, she serves as the Director of Youth Engagement for the Society for Women in Science and Technology and volunteer for Science World BC, where she shares her love of human anatomy and archaeology in schools and Science World as a visiting scientist.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
SFU's School of Criminology deservedly ranks as one of the best in North America, and it has always been a dream of mine to pursue aquatic morbidity research under the supervision of Dr. Gail Anderson. Aside from access to leading researchers in my field, the Centre for Forensic Research is also uniquely equipped to house highly classified data and biological material of forensic importance. I simply wouldn’t be able to pursue the same kind of research elsewhere.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.
My research can be summed up into three areas: drowning prevention through social research and advocacy, body detection using sonars, and human decomposition in water by looking at medical records and through field experimentation. BC’s climate and dynamic water systems will change your bones in different ways. By trying to identify changes specific to certain areas and seasons, I hope to help our coroners shed light on the postmortem journey of recovered remains.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
My current supervisor gives us plenty of leadership opportunities, and I value having the ability to develop project management skills in the field and laboratory setting. Experiential learning is important to me, and SFU has been incredibly supportive of my interdisciplinary research both in terms of funding, exposure, and helping me connect with mentors from other research groups. For my 16-month field study that served as the subject of my master’s research, I was able to work out of SFU’s Centre for Forensic Research, School of Criminology, Dr. Karen Kavanagh’s Nanoimaging Facility, and UBC’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest. That’s three faculties (arts and social sciences, physics, and biology) between two universities! Aside from being able to learn from various experts, it’s pretty cool how SFU has so many partnered institutions around the world.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?
The Ph.D. program I am in is quite flexible, in that you have a lot of freedom to choose when you take your mandatory coursework. In my opinion, this is one of the most attractive features of our program because it has allowed me to seize international visiting research programs and overseas training without being afraid of losing my place in the program or facing undue delays in graduating. Our department also has a lot of undergraduate classes, which makes it possible for students to gain a lot of valuable teaching experience throughout their program.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE GRADUATE STUDENTS/POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS?
There are many ways in which you can get involved with the campus community. Life is short, so I recommend making the most of your program by getting involved, meeting people, and hopefully build some lifelong friendships with future colleagues.
Contact Vienna: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Personal website: chisquared.ca
- LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/viennalam/
- RBC Top 25 Immigrants Competition: canadianimmigrant.ca/canadas-top-25-immigrants/vote
- UN Women in STEM day: thelasource.com/fr/2020/02/03/la-journee-internationale-des-femmes-et-des-filles-de-science/