April 1, 2017

Fatemeh Shahhosseini | Mentoring highly skilled newcomers to Canada

Fatemeh Shahhosseini, PhD, knew from a young age that she wanted to work in science.

Fatemeh Shahhosseini, PhD, knew from a young age that she wanted to work in science. In her native Iran, she loved biology as a high school student, and was eligible for medical school, but always had a passion for research, so decided to follow that path instead. “I don’t regret that I didn’t go into medicine because I pursued research and I got a job at one of the best universities in Canada.”

Now a laboratory research technician under supervisor, Gareth Williams, PhD, at the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute, their lab is part of the DNA Repair Group.

She conducts experiments which could lead to the development of anticancer therapeutics. "I enjoy the dynamic environment in this department, and we often have guest speakers from Eastern Canada or the US who come and share their research with us.”  

Fatemeh completed her BSc in cellular and molecular biology, and her MSc in biochemistry at the University of Tehran. Interested in pursuing her further studies overseas while exploring different cultures and meeting new people, she applied and was accepted to complete her PhD at the University of Malaya, the premier research university in Malaysia. There she studied genetics and molecular biology, and did a postdoc in medical microbiology. 

While completing her PhD, as a break from her lab work, she volunteered with the United Nations as a Farsi interpreter, where she met her husband, who recently arrived in Canada. Now together as a family, they look forward to spending their free time entertaining their three and a half year old son, going swimming and enjoying other outdoor activities around Calgary. “I still consider myself new to Calgary and I think there is a lot to learn about the people, culture and the whole city, and one fun way to do this is by attending community events.”

An important influence for Fatemeh when she landed here in Calgary was the Canadian Immigrant Women’s Agency (CIWA). There, she received assistance and advice from an employment counsellor, as well as the opportunity to begin establishing her professional network in the city. After successfully landing her role in the Williams lab, she signed up to be a mentor with CIWA, and is now working with her fifth mentee in the organization. 

Through this volunteer role, Fatemeh focuses on helping other highly-educated immigrants in the science field build their networks for jobs. “I know the path that I took wasn’t always easy, but knowing that you have that help to make connections, you feel more supported.” And that is what she hopes for other new immigrants to Calgary and Canada.

As for her wish for the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) for the next 50 years, she’d love to see an established mentorship program within the faculty for highly educated newcomers to Canada. “At the moment,” she says, “many volunteer opportunities are for general roles here in the city. For highly educated immigrants who want to integrate quickly into the scientific community, it would be great to see more formal mentorship or volunteer program established at the university.”  

It was the “Eyes High” vision that really attracted Fatemeh to UCalgary. To her it showed that we “want to be a top five research university in Canada and that UCalgary gives opportunities to young employees like me to grow.”

As such a positive role model for Canadian newcomers, Fatemeh is the depiction of the core values of the CSM and truly represents our mission of “Creating the Future of Health.”

Tidbits from Fatemeh

Favourite hangout spot at the CSM:  The tables by PurEatery. “I would prefer to have my lunch here. It’s nice to meet new people, and it inspires me to expand my network.” She also enjoys the yoga sessions in the atrium, and the lunch-and-learn series organized by the Working our Way to Wellness (WOWW) Committee

On the Cumming School’s 50th anniversary celebration: “I always feel proud that I am a small member of this scientific community, and want our faculty to continue to grow. I am also inspired by my colleagues who have been working for many years in the faculty.”

Main influence growing up: “Mom and dad, especially mom, was always encouraging me to pursue education and it was always a priority in the family.”

Where she sees herself in the next five to 10 years: “I am taking a few professional courses in management and marketing through continuing education to expand my skills, as I would like to eventually obtain a managerial position in the faculty.”