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May 2012

Step student making a difference in cancer research

When Ali Ahmadi came to Canada to complete a doctorate in applied science, he had a very personal goal of making a difference within cancer research. Using the many skills which he developed through Mitacs Step workshops, Dr. Ahmadi has contributed to a team whose device may do just that.

After completing his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Tehran, then working at a car manufacturing company, the loss of a close family member to cancer changed his goals for the future. He set his sights on biotechnology at the University of British Columbia. Ahmadi initially thought this meant a career destined for academia, but since attending eight Mitacs Step workshops he says “My eyes were opened to the opportunities outside of academia and I started to think about my career differently.”

When asked what the impact of the Step workshops has been on his working life, he cannot stop singing praise. He speaks with enthusiasm about the workshops which he took on project management, team-building and professional networking, saying that they helped him to learn more about Canadian business culture and how to communicate in ways that help any team or project regardless of the setting.

Having learned about the Relationship Awareness Theory through Mitacs Step, Dr. Ahmadi used it as a framework for building a strong and appreciative team culture within the Microsystems and Nanotechnology group at UBC. By understanding how to best leverage each persons’ strengths, the team members learned to support one another in order to achieve their team’s goals. Together, the team is inching closer to developing an electrical device which can grow living cells into tissues to aid cancer therapies and pharmaceutical discoveries.

 Ahmadi urges other graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to take part in as many Mitacs Step workshops as they can. “It’s an obvious choice,” he says, “at some point PhD graduates have to work outside of academia- Mitacs workshops provide the skills needed for work [in industry].”

Mitacs wishes Dr. Ahmadi and his team the best of luck in their continued research success!

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia for their support of the STEP workshops in this story. Across Canada, the STEP program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec,  the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

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