Dr. Marra (BSc 1989, PhD 1994, both from SFU) is the UBC Canada Research Chair in Genome Science, and a member of the Order of British Columbia. He is a recipient of a 2013 UBC Killam Research Prize, a 2012 UBC Faculty of Medicine Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Medal of Merit Award from the International Association of Lions Club. He was elected to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in 2009; received the Frontiers in Research Award from the BC Innovation Council in 2008; and was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2007. He was a recipient of a Genome BC Award for Scientific Excellence, a MSFHR Career Investigator Senior Scholar Award, and Simon Fraser University President’s 40th Anniversary Award. In 2004, he received a Terry Fox Young Investigator Award and BC Biotech’s Innovation and Achievement Award (together with the entire GSC staff) for sequencing the SARS coronavirus genome.
Dr. Marra’s contributions to genome science led to an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Simon Fraser University in 2004, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Calgary in 2005.
In February 2013, under the directorship of Dr. Marra, the Genome Sciences Centre was ranked in the top 5 best research facilities in Canada by Backbone magazine.
In June 2014, Dr. Marra was listed in the 2014 World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds by Thomson Reuters. These highly cited researchers (highlycited.com) were determined by analyzing citation data over the last 11 years to identify those who published the highest impact work (2002—2012 and 2012—2013). Dr. Marra was featured in the July 4th, 2014 issue of Globe and Mail as the 2nd most highly cited scientist in Canada.
Why did you choose to go to SFU?
As a high school student from the Interior, I visited SFU & was attracted to its location on the Mountain. With the offer of an entrance scholarship, I immediately accepted and was very pleased to do so.
Where did you spend the most amount of time on campus?
As an undergraduate, most of my time was spent either in the AQ during late night cramming sessions or in the gym. As a graduate student, I was anchored in the lab.
What is your favourite memory from your time at SFU?
Meeting with wife-to-be for the first time in an upper level seminar course.
Who was your favourite SFU professor and why?
David Baillie - he gave me an opportunity to work in his lab, which put me on a very different career trajectory that I had ever imagined.
How has your SFU degree impacted your career?
My degrees sharpened my interest in science and discovery, with the result that upon graduation with a PhD, I knew I wanted my own lab and the freedom to discover.
What is your favourite SFU snow story?
There are several, but they are all similar in that they involved hiking off the mountain in a blizzard followed by shots of flaming sambuca at Paro’s Taverna in the Burquitlam Plaza.
If you could give advice to students today, what would you tell them?
Choose well, aim high, and don’t give up.
What is the one thing about SFU that must not change?
Its willingness to adapt to change.