Research Ambassadors Program

The Research Ambassadors Program is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students who are eager to utilize their knowledge, skills and interests to enhance the research culture at UNBC. As champions for research at UNBC, Research Ambassadors have research experience across a broad spectrum of research fields, ranging from the sciences, natural sciences, and health sciences, to the social sciences and humanities.

UNBC’s Research Ambassadors work closely with the Office of Research and are passionate about sharing their research experiences with students. They promote research involvement, participate in formal and informal discussions, visit classes and participate in outreach activities. Contact the  Research Ambassadors at researchambassadors@unbc.ca​ 


Meet Our Ambassadors

Kimberley Thomas, Lead AmbassadorKimberly Thomas

Hi! My name is Kimberley, and I am a student of the Master of Health Sciences program here at the University of Northern British Columbia! The MSc Health Sciences program offers a wide breadth of research avenues. Peers in my program are conducting incredible research ranging from taking quantitative and biomedical approaches, to understanding intricate relationships between environment and health.

When I was applying to graduate programs, UNBC was my first-choice school for the opportunity to pursue a graduate program tailored to my passions and research interests. My research aims to promote access to community-based palliative care in rural and remote regions of northern British Columbia. My supervisor is Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, and I work on her team at the Health Arts Research Centre where we use creative, arts-based approaches for addressing health inequities in the north of our province. The Health Sciences program has effectively allowed me to combine my biological sciences and laboratory-learning background with immersing myself in qualitative, community-informed social science health research.

There are numerous benefits for undergraduate students who choose to be involved in research here at UNBC. The advantage of researching at UNBC are the increased opportunities to network, be mentored, and build relationships. UNBC is unique in the way the university and community are highly integrated, allowing one to witness knowledge, discovered through research, transformed into implementation and action.

UNBC has absolutely exceeded my expectations in the way faculty and staff genuinely root for student success and how student contributions are valued in shaping the fabric of our university. I wake up every day excited and incredibly grateful to be learning, growing, and discovering through research at UNBC!


Laura HarveyLaura Harvey

My name is Laura Harvey and I am proudly partaking in my third year of the Masters of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner Program. As I am residing on a farm with my young family on Salt Spring Island, I chose UNBC because of its unique focus on rural primary health care and its innovative approach to distance education so that I could participate in my studies from the comfort of my home. While challenging at times, this degree program has inspired a previously unknown passion for research through both the content of each course and the unending encouragement from each of my professors. With the aid of my supervisor, Dr. Lela Zimmer, I have chosen to focus my masters research on how primary care practitioners might improve upon current paternal perinatal depression education, screening and diagnosis practices to positively impact the mental health outcomes of the entire perinatal family.

Prior to beginning the program, I had no idea that participating in research was a possibility for me. When reading the names of authors listed at the beginning of research articles, I never dreamt that I one day might also aspire to contribute to a research publication with the aim of improving health outcomes of at risk populations. Through the encouragement and guidance of my professors and the innovation of UNBCs approach to research, I now know that this is an attainable goal and hope one day for my work in health research to inspire positive health change. My aim as a Research Ambassador from a distance is to encourage and to inspire more distance students to participate in research and to promote community building from afar by utilizing technology as a tool. UNBC has shown me that participating in research can look different for everyone, but in the end is an inspiring and worthwhile endeavor for every student.


Ann Duong Ann Duong

Hey peeps! I'm Ann and I'm an undergraduate student with a background in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and I'm very excited to be one of your research ambassadors this year.   

I've been lucky enough to be involved in two different labs at UNBC, the Lee lab where I got to find out whether stem-loop RNA molecules would be able to downregulate cancerous KRAS protein expression, and at the Northern Analytical Laboratory Service (NALS), where I'm currently getting my hands dirty with a big project involving detecting, quantifying and removing these nasty toxins called microcystins that are released from cyanobacteria.

You're probably wondering what research actually means. Well, research means a lot of things, but to me, it means having the ability to ask "why?" If you are curious and can ask "why?", you can do research. Try it. It's pretty easy. Well, not quite. You'll most likely need a proper place, the resources, and the tools to do the research. But worry not, because UNBC has plenty of those.

Other than the research opportunities UNBC has for undergraduates, I chose UNBC because of the other opportunities I had to get involved outside of academics such as clubs, employment, and outdoor activities. UNBC exceeded my expectations by not only providing a great education but a place to grow and develop as an individual. It is where I have met my extended family - my colleagues, friends, and community members that are my mentors and support for the past 4 years in a place very much far away from home.


Rowan PaulsenRowan Paulsen

Hello! My name is Rowan Paulsen. I am in my fifth and final year of working to complete my BA with a Major in Anthropology. I am from the city of Quesnel, and UNBC was a close, familiar, and achievable option for me to enroll to and I’ll never regret choosing this university. Here at UNBC, I completed an Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) in the Winter 2017 semester and went on the ANTH 422 Ethnographic Research Project as a student in the Summer 2018 semester. My URE, under the supervision of Dr. Michel Bouchard, focused on a digital community of ultra-nationalists and studied how they affirmed concepts of masculinity with internet memes that promoted nationalist sentiments. In Ireland, my ANTH 422 Ethnographic Research Project used information taken from field notes, interviews that I attended or co-lead with another student, and academic literature to study the relationship between the Irish national identity and the experiences of Polish people working and living in Ireland. 

By aligning my curiosity with the research of the Anthropology faculty, I was introduced to Anthropology as it is practiced: an important addition to the Anthropology that I had studied in coursework. In both cases, the research questions were developed through discussion with professors and were formed through a mutual agreement inspired by my curiosity and shaped by their experience. Doing research was the opportunity that I needed to confirm that my degree was a pursuit that I was prepared to commit to and put to rest any doubts I had in continuing anthropological research. When I came to UNBC,
I was worried that I would have to resign myself to dreaming small dreams, but after my experiences with research, I know that the sky’s the limit and the world is at my fingertips.


Brendan CarswellBrendan Carswell

Hi! My name is Brendan Carswell, and I am a fifth year undergraduate student here at UNBC. I am enrolled in the BSc. Hons. Natural Resource Management program, majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries and minoring in general Biology. I was born in Campbell River, BC, and lived on Northern Vancouver Island for many years before moving to Prince George. I first knew that I wanted to attend UNBC after seeing a presentation given at my elementary school by a former geography professor on his research on Antarctic glaciers. When I started my degree at UNBC, however, I had no idea where it would take me or what my future would be after university. Looking back, applying to UNBC was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. 

Over the course of my studies at UNBC, I have been fortunate enough to work as a research assistant for many professors on numerous projects, ranging from dendrochronology and forest ecology, to human-wildlife interactions at the Prince George Airport. This past summer I gained experience in coastal and marine research as an intern for the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society on Haida Gwaii. The Society’s research focuses on the long-term monitoring of terrestrial and marine life in the Laskeek Bay nature preserve. Later during the summer, I improved my research skills as a student on UNBC’s first marine ecology field school to Baja Mexico.

Working with scientists on the frontlines of natural resource research has inspired me to investigate similar issues. For two years during my undergraduate degree, I worked on my own undergraduate research project under the supervision of Dr. Roy Rea. The project—funded by the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development—investigated wildlife use of Armillaria and Laminated root disease centres in mule deer winter range of BC’s Central Interior. Our research—the first of its kind—put a wildlife spin on a topic primarily examined through the lenses of forestry and silviculture.

Being a student at UNBC has given me research experience and opportunities that I wouldn’t have access to at other, larger institutions. The expectational staff and faculty at UNBC enabled me to succeed in my degree through their support and mentorship. For example, my research involvement at UNBC started when one of my first-year professors, Dr. Lisa Wood, recognized me from class and offered me a position as a research assistant. 


Hooi Xian LeeHooi Xian Lee

My name is Hooi Xian Lee and I am a Ph.D. student in Health Sciences at UNBC under the supervision of Dr. Chow Lee. It has always been my dream to embark on a Ph.D. program. Hence, after the completion of my Master Degree in 2015, I have further pursued my interest and passion for enrolling into Ph.D. study at UNBC. I am excited about research at UNBC because Dr. Lee is well-known in the field of biochemistry and molecular especially in investigating the anti-cancer properties of wild mushrooms in northern BC. Also, he has published extensively in the oncology field. His work history is impressive and his team of researchers has managed to unveil a lot of exciting discoveries over the years of experiments. Recognition of his autobiography and achievements, I came to UNBC to further my Ph.D. study. I am excited to be part of Dr. Lee’s research team at UNBC whereby my research focuses on finding small molecule inhibitors of cancer cells. In Canada, approximately 1 in 2 Canadians is predicted to be diagnosed with cancer at a certain point during their lifetime. Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly occurring cancer in Canada. Therefore, my research project seeks to develop a new potential drug that targets colorectal cancer. I will develop the small molecule drug through two different approaches which are by chemical synthesis and natural product isolation.

Research introduces me to great people! My favorite’s part of working at UNBC is meeting amazing people who help me to grow. I am given the opportunity to work with people from different sciences background and lab groups that may serve as guides, mentors, and friends outside of the lab. My lab members also helped me develop my laboratory skills and analytical skills when working in the lab. Furthermore, I am surprised that UNBC is very generous in providing research funding opportunities and financial aid to UNBC researchers. I am one of the recipients of the Graduate Entrance Research Award (GERA) and Research Project Awards (RPA) scholarships which have greatly supported my research study at UNBC. Also, research can enhance both my professional and academic credentials for future career advancement. For instance, RPA award has helped me to become more competitive by filling gaps in my CV, increasing my visibility, and putting me in a stronger position for my future career planning and progression besides supporting my research study.

It has always been my dream to be an educator since I was a kid. At the same time, I wanted to be a researcher as well. Therefore, I have decided to be a lecturer after I have completed my Ph.D. study. My research experiences will definitely add to my knowledge base and I could integrate research findings into my teaching. I am lucky to be given the chance to work as a teaching assistant at UNBC where I could apply all my research experiences in my teaching. For instance, I could convey the outcomes of my research study or research of others into my teaching and develop my students’ interest in learning about the advances in a certain area. It could also help to motivate them in conducting research for further knowledge contribution.


Rachelle van Leeuwen Rachelle van Leeuwen

Hello to all whose curiosity brought you here! My name is Rachelle van Leeuwen, and I am in my fourth and final year at UNBC. I am a student in the History and English programs and am completing a minor in Political Science. These programs have so many opportunities within them for research opportunities in the forms of grants, scholarships, internships, independent research projects and courses, and more.

When I first moved from Smithers to Prince George to attend UNBC, I was unsure of what to expect. However, any preconceived ideas were blown away by the opportunities that I had in interacting with my peers and their research questions, building relationships with my professors, and pursuing different avenues of research that seemed to be around every corner. I am excited to represent this
important aspect for the Humanities and History Departments in the honoured position of Research Ambassador.

I first was interested in researching in a second-year history course where my professor challenged my original research question surrounding Lord Durham’s Report written in the 1830s and the use of the word “assimilation”. I had unassumingly chosen a topic that directly challenged something that my professor researched and concluded in the past. There was a thrill in digging into books and archival material to see where my research could take me.

Within the next year and a half, I continued to research Canadian history, but moved from Upper and Lower Canada to Northern British Columbia. I examined in my Undergraduate Research Experience Award the relationships between the Indigenous people of Northern British Columbia, the traders from the Hudson’s Bay Company in New Caledonia, and the missionaries based in Stuart’s Lake (Fort St. James) from the 1880s to the 1910s. I have transcribed Post Journals of Fort George and Fort Fraser, gone through the Canadian census – which is entirely handwritten in the 1880s – tracked the journeys of missionaries through Post Journal entries, and read the first-hand accounts of an interesting American trapper whose bizarre opinions of British Columbia provided a useful yet interesting point of view to my research.

Researching in History is different every day. It involves determination, hard work, curiosity, and imagination. The goal of a historian is not only to track changes through the past, but to think critically about how these people, events, places, laws, and ideas have shaped the present.

As a Research Ambassador, I hope to point you towards the many opportunities there are in the Humanities for researching anything that interests you, but also to provide a support as you build the confidence to pursue it. There is an amazing research community at UNBC that will always be behind you, and as Research Ambassadors we hope to be the first persons who can bring you in to it.


Patrick SmithPatrick Smith

My name is Patrick Smith, and I have lived in Northern British Columbia for my entire life. I started my university career at the age of 30 after starting a family with my spouse and spending nearly a decade working in casino security. Making a clean break from a steady pay cheque to the chaos of student life was daunting, but my family and I felt that it was time for a change. UNBC was local, and I knew many current and former students who had enjoyed their time there, my spouse being an alumnus herself. Fast forward to 2019, and I find myself with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, two healthy boys (William, age 10 and Lorne, 4 months old), and starting graduate studies at UNBC in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program.

All of the research I have been part of has been with the Babine Archaeology Project, a joint project between UNBC and the Lake Babine Nation, directed by Dr. Farid Rahemtulla. In 2017, I participated in the UNBC BAP Archaeology Field School, where I had my first experience with archaeological field work. In the winter of 2018, I applied for, and received, an Undergraduate Research Experience Award with a project aimed at examining the density and volume of human altered stone materials gathered from the Smokehouse Island archaeological site, under supervision from Dr. Rahemtulla. The goal of this research was to analyze patterns of material deposition to better understand how Smokehouse Island was formed. During the summer of 2019, I worked as a research assistant during the 2019 UNBC BAP Archaeology Field School. My Graduate research also focuses on Smokehouse Island, using the data collected from my URE and many other sources to examine other islands in the region that may have been built up in a similar fashion.

Research has opened up so many doors for me and shown me that I am much more capable than I had initially thought. Five years ago, if someone told me I would do all the things I have done, I would have thought they were joking. As a research ambassador, I make it a goal to help students reach and challenge their own potential by connecting them to opportunities that they might not otherwise know about. I look forward to helping my fellow students and giving back to the community at UNBC.


Winter 2019 Research Ambassadors (Pilot)