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Student Profile: Gisele Umviligihozo
doctoral student in the Faculty of Health Sciences
I grew up in Rwanda, a country of a Thousand hills and magnificent landscapes located in the Eastern region of Africa. The fascinating diversity of living organisms and the curiosity to understand their nature led me to study science and pursue a career in health research. I did university studies in biological sciences and obtained a postgraduate degree in infectious diseases. For my graduate studies, I first enrolled in the master’s program and then continued with a doctorate. I am now a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. As a basic science researcher, I use laboratory techniques to learn about viral infections and their interactions with host immune factors.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
I was passionate about health sciences and interested in virology research. Therefore, I was looking for an institution that offered a diverse graduate program that would enable me to do research and simultaneously navigate different scientific fields. This type of multidisciplinary training was unique to SFU.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
My research focuses on understanding the ways human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) uses to challenge protection by human immune responses, invade the body and enhance disease development. Understanding these viral mechanisms has the potential to inform the design of vaccines or treatments that can target important steps underlying viral infection and proliferation.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
I am happy to be part of a supportive environment and a great community of students and Faculty at SFU, but especially for the opportunity to work with Professors Mark Brockman and Zabrina Brumme, who continually support, inspire, and guide me on the path to becoming a good scientist. It is particularly gratifying to know that my work is a valuable contribution to science. I enjoy performing lab experiments through which we find answers to critical research questions, generating scientific knowledge that can influence development of evidence-based solutions. I appreciate the challenges that come with every step of my journey, as it helps me grow both personally and as a researcher.
HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.
I was fortunate to be supported by several funded awards, including the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship which I was awarded for my Masters program and the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB and HIV research Excellence (SANTHE) scholarship obtained for my PhD. I was awarded various scholarships to attend national/international conferences notably the International AIDS Society (IAS), the Canadian association of HIV Research (CAHR) and the conference on retroviruses and opportunistic infections (CROI). I have also received seven consecutive Graduate Fellowships from the Faculty of Health Sciences since the Fall of 2017. Receiving these awards has been a tremendous financial support that has given me security and stability, allowing me to stay focused on my studies and enhancing my ability to succeed in the program.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?
The doctorate program in the Faculty of Health Sciences, is multidisciplinary program that allows students from diverse backgrounds to learn and explore a wide range of scientific fields. FHS helps students achieve their educational goals, excel in the program, and meet their prospective career expectations; by making resources available and providing support to build learning networks. Personally, I work in collaboration with a team of researchers from the BC centre of HIV Research excellence (BCCFE) and having access to their advanced biomedical technology greatly enriches my work and helps improve my research results. Additionally, for a smooth transition into career positions, SFU provides opportunities to connect with people from academia and industry to make early contact with potential employers.
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