Alumni of the UBC Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN) embark on diverse career paths, spanning academia, clinical practice, industry, and beyond. We’ve connected with two of our esteemed Neuroscience program graduates who pursued careers in public health to learn about their current career destinations and how their experiences in the program paved the way for their success.


Alireza Kamyabi, GPN MSc Graduate 2022
Policy Analyst – Vancouver Coastal Health

Alireza Kamyabi

What is your current job?
In my role as a Policy Analyst, my primary responsibilities involve conducting research and analysis on various public health issues and policies, with a particular emphasis on the broader social determinants of health. This means we’re looking at the factors beyond healthcare services that impact people’s well-being, such as alcohol consumption, affordable housing, active transportation networks and quality childcare and school environments.

What is a typical day like for you?

In my day-to-day work, I do a lot of literature reviews to gather relevant information and then use that to create evidence-based recommendations and policy briefs to inform and guide an upcoming decision by local government partners. I meet regularly with the Medical Health Officers at VCH to discuss the latest developments on public health issues and strategies needed to address them. 

Why did you choose Neuroscience?
It might be a cliche, but the brain is a remarkable organ. It underpins the key things that we cherish about the human experience – sensory input, language, emotions, thoughts, and behaviour – with all those changing and evolving over our lifetime through experience. How all this is orchestrated and shaped by coordinated cellular and molecular processes in the brain is a fascinating question. I cherish having been able explore a tiny part of it through my master’s program and contributing my tiny share to our knowledge about the brain and how it works.

In what ways has your degree in Neuroscience got you to where you are today?
In my current role, I bring a unique blend of scientific skills stemming from my research experience. Interestingly, my neuroscience foundation has proven surprisingly relevant in tackling real-world public health challenges, particularly in the realms of mental health and addictions, where insights from the field can significantly inform policy decisions.

What did you enjoy most about UBC?
I loved the everyday interactions and conversations with my supervisor, lab mates and fellow grad students. Having the opportunity to explore and discuss the cutting-edge discoveries in neuroscience, while pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of the brain through our own research, is something truly special.

Anything else you would like to share?
Post-graduate life can be nerve-racking but embrace the unique moment that you have and explore the variety of opportunities that are in front of you.

Dr. Fakhri Shafai, GPN PhD Graduate 2018
Chief Science Officer – AIDE Canada

Dr. Fakhri Shafai

What is your current job?
As Chief Science Officer of AIDE Canada, a federally-funded nonprofit that supports Autistic individuals, individuals with intellectual disabilities, and their families. My job description includes resource development and management as well as ensuring that knowledge translation items on our website are evidence-informed.

What is a typical day for you at your current job?
Every day is different for me in this role as we create a wide variety of resources and have multiple projects on the go at all times. Some days I am providing in-person training to first responders on de-escalation techniques during emergency calls with neurodivergent people. Other days I am leading webinars, video interviews, planning conferences, or online course development. My favourite part of my job is working so closely with people with lived experience as we co-design and co-create resources that have been requested by our community.

Why did you choose Neuroscience?
I have always been fascinated by the brain and had been working with Autistic individuals for years by the time I decided to pursue my PhD in Neuroscience. The question that drove (and still drives) me was trying to understand how they perceive the world around them and how their sensory experiences impact other areas of their lives. Neuroscience was the perfect field to enter to attempt to answer some of those questions.

What did you enjoy most about UBC?
My research at UBC focused on Autistic adults. It was such a valuable experience to see the similarities and differences in the challenges and triumphs that Autistic adults faced. I learned a great deal from my research participants and am eternally grateful to them for sharing their experiences and insights with me.

What advice do you have for new graduate students in the program?
The issue I have struggled with the most during my entire career is imposter syndrome. I have had the great honour of working with some of the most brilliant minds both during and after my graduate program, but working with such amazing people definitely fed into my insecurities about not being good enough. So, my advice is to accept that your defense committee allowed you to graduate for a good reason and that you have developed the necessary skills to succeed in a variety of post-graduate positions, not just academic ones.

Anything else you would like to share?
My supervisor, Dr. Ipek Oruc, was an amazing person to have as a mentor and I am grateful to her for her patience, support, and guidance throughout my program. I highly recommend that you find mentors in your life who can show you what it means to be a better scientist and writer as you build your post-graduate career.