Almira is a second-year master’s student at the University of British Columbia in the Reproductive and Developmental Sciences program. Currently, Almira is working as a research assistant working on her master’s thesis at BC Cancer’s Huntsman lab. There, she is studying a rare type of ovarian cancer subtype type called Low Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer and the mechanisms involved in immune surveillance.

Originally from Kazakhstan, Almira was not interested in biology until high school, where she was intrigued by the idea of creating an elixir for eternal life. Almira has since won undergrad research competitions and scholarships to be able to work in research labs worldwide—including hematopoietic stem cell research at the Kumamoto University in Kumamoto, Japan and metabolomic research on psychiatric disorders at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany. Her interest in gynecologic cancers stems from a medical observership at New York University. Almira shadowed a fertility clinician-scientist with training in psychiatry and saw how research and patient care go hand in hand. 

Q: What are your goals for your career?

I am still struggling whether to pursue medical school or my PhD or both! In the end, I can see myself doing both. I would also like to enter the global health field because I love my home country and my family there. Maybe someday I can help my country through the medical field, whether that is providing training for students or progressing the health care system. I want to use what I have learnt to help other lower-income countries.

Q: What advice would you give someone starting in the same field?

A: It’s cliché but don’t limit yourself or your beliefs. Back in my small city in Kazakhstan, I never thought that I’d visit so many places, let alone have people want me to come and work in these places. It requires patience and hard work, but it’s been quite a journey, so I try and not to limit myself or my imagination. If you believe or desire something enough, you’ll start to see people and opportunities that can help you get there. At least this what tend to happen with me.

Q: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?

A: I have three younger sisters, and I think I am most proud of being a good role model for them. No matter where I am, I try to help them the best I can. And even though I am here chasing my dreams, I still make time and energy to be with them virtually. Maintaining a strong connection with my family and being a good role model is probably what I am most proud of.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

A: I am guilty of watching bad Russian reality TV shows. I also enjoy yoga and crafts. I don’t know if this counts as leisure or work, but I also tutor grade 7 students as part of Let’s Talk Science at UBC and coordinate social events for GrasPods graduate and post-doctoral students society.

Q: Do you have a favourite restaurant in Vancouver?

A: It’s not a restaurant, but I really like Chatime for bubble tea. I’ve gone every day for the past three days!