Cindy Shen is a research assistant and technician at OVCARE, a research group led by Dr. David Huntsman.  Currently, her group’s research focuses on developing new diagnostic tools to detect cancer earlier, researching possible new treatments, and furthering the understanding of the mechanisms of how gynecologic cancers develop. Her work supports the Gynecologic Cancer Tissue Bank, a key biorepository resource available to researchers in BC. The Tissue Bank provides access to biospecimen and data that are made available by the gynecologic cancer patients who have generously volunteered to be part of ongoing research in BC.   

Her background is in Biochemistry and Neuroscience and has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto. Through her undergrad and related experiences, Cindy has found her passion in cancer research, immunology, and helping the patient’s experience through various research activities.  

Outside of work, Cindy is also an enthusiast for outdoor activities, photography and public speaking. She is part of Vancouver Speakers and Leaders, a Toastmasters Club dedicated to improving public speaking skills. If you’re interested in joining Cindy, feel free to join by registering here or visit their website.

Q: How did you become interested in gynecologic cancer research?  

A: The reason I was drawn to cancer research was because of my Co-op position while in university. I was doing a lot of patient chart reviews and when I was reading the clinical notes and understanding the patient’s cancer journey from diagnosis to treatment, it pained me to see how much discomfort the patient was in. So that emotional aspect motivates me because I want to provide help and it shows the value of my work.  

Q: What are your goals for your career or research? 

A: I think my goal is to help make a difference in others’ lives. It sounds vague, and I know it’s something I can’t do independently, but this is the fun part. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try it, you don’t know where to start until you start something. I want to do this not just through work but through other parts of my life. For example, as a side project, my friends and I make Youtube video because we feel that it’s important to share our knowledge and positivity, especially during the pandemic. Watch and subscribe to their Youtube here

Q: If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you tell them?  

A: I’d say, ‘try it out because you’ll never know unless you try’. The reason is that we can have so many ideas of what we want to try. But many times, these ideas just sit in our heads and it’s really when you try things, you discover more about it.  

“Life is like water. If you add salt, it becomes salty, if you add sugar, it becomes sweet. It is you who have total control over the taste of life you want,” is a quote I really like and fits well here. Sometimes it’s better to think twice about what you would regret not starting this year and simply start going rather than waiting and weighing all of your options or letting fear get in the way.  

Q: What do you think is your greatest accomplishments? 

A: I wouldn’t call it an accomplishment because I think I’m always working towards continuous improvement. But what I am most proud of from the past year is my friends and I have created an online platform where we hold weekly sessions and invite people and learn something together. The idea is that we can help each other improve various aspects like physical or mental health or financial knowledge. I am proud of this because we are all so passionate about this project that we are building from the ground up. The process of building something out of nothing really provides a sense of accomplishment. 

Q: What is your favourite restaurant in Vancouver? 

A: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I have a favourite restaurant in Vancouver because what I like about Vancouver is the diversity of restaurants. In Taiwan, where I was born, there are so many restaurants but, they’re all different types of Taiwanese foods. In Vancouver, because it’s such a multicultural place, the food is also diverse, and you can try so many different foods and flavours. It’s like a global village, and personally, I really like trying new things.