S: How long have you been the director of Integrated Sciences? Were you the one to start it, or?
LG: No, I’ve been director since 2007. The program started in the late 1990’s, I think around ‘95.
S: Did you overtake it from the original director?
LG: No, ah, there [were] a few people in between me. They originally asked me in 2004, but I had too much other stuff going on. So I came back in 2007, and I figured it was going to work well for me. But it’s a good question; how many directors have we had? We’ve had acting directors for a while too. There was some sorting out to be done - figure out where, how to place Integrated Sciences, and the program took off like a rocket when it started. And they decided they had to, to cut enrolment somehow, the number of students, so they stopped taking applications and word got out that you couldn’t get into Integrated Sciences. And the enrolment dropped like a stone.
LG: Pictures of the graduating class as you can see.
S: It’s like 100, and then 25.
LG: When I came on the scene, I think their might have been 75 students at all stages. And so we had to rebuild the program, and tell everyone that they could actually get into Integrated Sciences. And now we’re up around, um, I think we’re around 400 at different stages, between their 1st and 3rd year. 400 – 450, I couldn’t tell you exactly. So, we’ve really grown and the program has gotten very successful. I mean the incoming students are among the best students at UBC, so yeah.
S: Awesome. If you were going to rate how competitive it is to get in, what would you say would be an average rating, and a number of times people submit an application to get in?
LG: Ah. It’s never impossible to get in. There’s two ways of getting in. One is by choosing integrated sciences in first year, in the, what do you call it, where you have to choose your major.
S: Ah, degree specialization. Is that what they call it?
LG: But you can always get in by coming to see us and saying that you’re interested in integrated sciences and then following the path of finding a mentor and completing an application. So, there’s kind of two ways of getting in, and the first way you still have to find a mentor and do the application, but when you choose integrated sciences at the end of first year, then you can make sure that we keep a spot for you. Even if you get in, this year we had 100 spots and they filled up. Again, we even have students coming to us in the beginning of their 4th years, saying “Hey, I’m really interested in integrated sciences...um, can we still do something?” And, we can up until [a certain point].
S: But there would be no specific like stats you would say? It’s all, it’s very interpersonal in deciding who can get into Integrated Sciences then?
LG: Yeah, I mean it’s very rare, very rare, in fact I can’t remember, that somebody couldn’t get in. As you know, the [important thing] is really the application. The desire to complete the application, as you know, it does take effort, and there’s a lot of checks, because, when it’s accepted, it’s law, it becomes a legal contract between you and the University. The University says “If you do what you say you’re going to do, we’ll give you a degree.” Now, we can always unlock and make changes and so on, but it has to be right. The reason why this program, why there aren’t more programs like this in other universities, is that that’s a big job, and we have permission from the senate to approve programs, individual programs. A lot of universities, the senate has to approve everything, but you can imagine, it wouldn’t work. [Here] it’s worked spectacularly well, but as you know, there’s a lot of responsibility on the part of the student and the advisor and us here in the office to make sure we are not making any mistakes.
S: For being a mentor, are your, the people who select you as a mentor, are they very specific in geology or have you gotten a wide range of [applicants]?
LG: Wide range, yeah, because students who can’t find a mentor, they’ll come to us and I’ll often, because I’ve done a lot, and I have great people like Mary-Anne who can help me, I’ll say, “Yeah I’ll act as your mentor.” I think it’s better if the student works with somebody that it’s an area that is in one of their areas that they want to integrate, because then that person can give them ideas about grad school and so on in their areas. But yeah, probably half the students I mentor are doing something in earth science, and the other half could be in any area.
S: What was the most unusual integration you’ve seen?
LG: The most unusual...uh, it wasn’t mine, but there was a student who was interested in how we perceive music, and so she did neurology, psychology, and a minor in music. Then I had a student that came in and said she wanted to study plants and rocks. And that worked out pretty well. We’ve seen a real wide range, it’s, I mean there’s been some really creative integrations, and kind of the wilder it is, the more fun it is to put something together.
S: When you’re putting something together, do you find you mostly do it over e-mail? Do you find you do it in in-person meetings?
LG: It’s, whatever the student is comfortable with, there’s some students that prefer email, it works better for them, and others that I think really enjoy the one-on-one meetings. So it’s, it’s right across the spectrum.
S: If you were going to do an integration now, do you have an idea of what you would do?
LG: Oh my goodness, wow. Good question. Ah man, I’d probably do something really unusual. But, ah, but yeah. I mean, you know I don’t know much about biology, because I didn’t take, you know I didn’t take that area much. I mainly did geology and chemistry, so maybe some kind of combination of geology and biology. [Some] biohydrometallurgy [and] bacterial work we did, was really interesting.
S: I’m not sure if you know this, but what would be your guess of proportions of students, of where they end up. Do the majority [of Integrated Science Students] end up in, say like a professional Ph.D. or Masters, like Medicine or Dentistry, or..?
LG: Yeah, almost all go on, and I would say that, I couldn’t predict, a lot go to med school, a lot go onto research, a lot of medical research. The majority of our students are in the life sciences, so the majority go into that. We have students who get into med school before they finish their degree, we have one fella’ doing a combined law and MBA program in California. We have a student really interested in stem cell research, and there wasn’t much at UBC so she started communication with researchers at Oxford and they invited her over for the summer, and then they said when you finish your undergrad why don’t you come work with us. Almost everyone goes on to something, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s probably, a quarter go to med school, okay let’s say maybe a third go to professional schools, and a third go to research like graduate school, and then a third end up doing something, something else. But, we do try to keep track of what people are doing, and percentages of students keep in touch, even after 10, 12 years, so, if they’re in town they’ll drop by, which is always nice.
S: If you were going to pick the major three advantages and major three disadvantages of becoming an Integrated Sciences student vs a single major, say Biology, what would you say?
LG: Well, I have to say, first off, one real major advantage is you’re creating your own degree, so you’re a unique degree, you’re not on a X/100 students doing the same thing, following the same path, so when you go to apply to grad school or a job, they’re going to say “what’s Integrated Sciences” and you say “Well, I was unhappy with the programs, so I used this opportunity to create my own degree.” You work with an advisor, which can be akin to how a graduate student works with a supervisor. I think it shows people that you are pro-active, you know you saw something that you thought, this is really neat, and you went and you put the effort into putting the application together, and you got in, and you have a degree that’s different from everybody else's, that’s a huge selling point when applying. Definitely the med school’s got the word on it, they all know us. They liked to see broad backgrounds in science. I’d say that’s really an advantage. Other advantages: it’s a small group, if you want to you can get very involved in things like ISSA, there are students that use the classroom to study, and the back room. It’s pretty easy to get to know us, because there are 3 of us. The kitchen of course. We’re like a small university inside a big one. If you’re looking for something smaller and more personal ISCI can be that, so that’s the second advantage. The third advantage, well you get to know all of your profs, your mentor/advisor, a lot of our students do directed studies projects in a lab. I think it’s a real vehicle where you can really, if you’re an integrated science student there’s a lot of things you can do with it, I don’t know, I think if you’ve already done the work to be an integrated sciences student you’ve realized there’s a lot out there, offered to you.
LG: Disadvantage: we can only take so many students, you know, we’re already over loaded. This year we had lower the intake in first year from 110 to 100, but that said, as I mentioned, you can always get into Integrated Sciences. So, you know it’s, I think it’s such a great program, I think it has great students, I’d like to encourage everyone to take Integrated Sciences, but we can’t take everybody. We were supposed to have 180 students in third and plus year, we’re around 210, 220. I wish I could get to know all of the students, I used to know all of the students, but my life’s gotten pretty crazy on the research end. I try, but yeah.
Don't forget to come out to Meet your Mentor, hosted by ISSA Tuesday October 11 at 4pm in Abdul Ladha! Meet some cool profs like Dr. Lee Groat, and get to know your ISSA. Click this link to go to the event page!
RECOMMENDED READS: CATEGORIES "MENTOR SPOTLIGHTS" AND "ALUMNUS INTERVIEWS"
About Me: My major is Integrated Sciences; I'm integrating physiology and psychology, and completing a minor in kinesiology. The movie 'The Imitation Game' blew my mind, and every piece done by the artist Alex Cherry is spectacular. Also, if you look up the definition of a bookworm, you'll find me.
Integrating Physiology and Neuroscience!
I like hanging out at Tower Beach but you can usually find me studying at Ponderosa even though I don't live there.