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"It's definitely been strange being a graduate student during a pandemic, but, even so, I've been able to make connections with researchers and journalists across the world, build new skills, and dedicate my time to the things that interest me most. I feel lucky to be here, and lucky to spend these 4 years with an amazing group of colleagues, mentors, and collaborators."
Student Profile: Alice Fleerackers
Interdisciplinary Studies doctoral student in the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology
I am a doctoral student in the Scholarly Communications Lab at Simon Fraser University, where I study how uncertain health science is communicated online. I'm also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and Nautilus, among other outlets. I care deeply about connecting research and practice. In addition to my studies, I volunteer with several science communication nonprofits, including Science Borealis, Art the Science, the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada, and the Public Communication of Science and Technology Network.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
I first came to SFU because I wanted to work in children's book publishing, and I'd heard great things about the Master's in Publishing Program. It turned out those great things were right. The MPub taught me so many skills, and connected me to many wonderful people, including my current supervisor, Juan Pablo Alperin. When I graduated from the program, I was convinced I was done with academia and off to an exciting career in publishing. While I got the exciting career, it turned out I wasn't quite done with academia. Two years later, I was back at SFU, working on a PhD under Juan's supervision. I guess I'm a researcher at heart.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
Most of the science you read about in the news has gone through what's known as peer review—a process during which independent experts critically read the study, provide comment on its strengths and weaknesses, and weigh in on whether it should be published in its current form or requires revisions. My doctoral research examines how journalists use preprints—studies that have not yet gone through this peer review process—and what this means for the publics who rely on their reporting.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
I don't think I've ever felt as creative and empowered as I have during my PhD. It's definitely been strange being a graduate student during a pandemic, but, even so, I've been able to make connections with researchers and journalists across the world, build new skills, and dedicate my time to the things that interest me most. I feel lucky to be here, and lucky to spend these 4 years with an amazing group of colleagues, mentors, and collaborators.
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.
Over the course of my PhD, I've been lucky enough to receive several major awards, including a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, a Joint Initiative for Digital Citizen Research Supplement, and, most recently, a Michael Stevenson Graduate Scholarship. Looking back, I'm not sure I would have been able to do my PhD without these awards; I know I definitely wouldn't have been able to enjoy as much freedom to explore, learn, and grow as I have thanks to this funding. I am so grateful to the generosity of the funders who have supported, and continue to support, my work.
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