About the GSA

GSA VP Student Services

GSA Vice-President Student Services 2018-2019: Fahed Elian

"The Vice-President Student Services is responsible for GSA and University services provided to graduate students" (GSA Bylaw and Policy, Section D: GSA Officers, GSA Bylaw, Section D.BYL.2.2.e).

E-Mail: gsa.vpstudentservices@ualberta.ca

Biography:GSA VP Student Services Fahed Elian

I was born and raised in Amman, the capital city of Jordan, and lived in Lebanon and Libya while growing up. I went to Cairo, Egypt to earn a B.Sc. in Biotechnology and knew my academic journey was not done yet. The combination of my passion for science, love for travelling, and interest in new cultural experiences led me the University of Alberta where I completed my M.Sc. My M.Sc. focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of Herceptin, a drug that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ErbB2-positive Breast Cancer. I am now in my second year of the Ph.D. program in the Department of Medical Genetics, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Walter. My current research aims to unravel the role of the FOXC1 gene in the spread of one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer, Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). To kick off my Ph.D. and give me a good handle on my topic, my team and I recently published a review paper “FOXC1, The New Player in the Cancer Sandbox” in Oncotarget journal. I will be presenting my latest findings on this topic at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in San Diego this April.

But, like all of us graduate students, there is a lot more to me than my academic interests. I enjoy travelling, and meeting new people is invaluable to me and I to do so through sporting activities, especially soccer and futsal. I also try to de-stress by cooking and trying new restaurants, listening to and making music on the weekends, and collecting records from different genres. I’ve recently taken up snowboarding during the (many) winter months and camping during the (few) summer months.  


I have been GSA Councillor for the last 3 years. I served as Vice President for the Medical Genetics Students’ Association (MGSA) from 2015 to 2018. In this position, I volunteered with a fantastic group of students who share my goal to improve students’ experiences, build professional connections, and of course, engage them in activities outside of the academic setting. I collaborated with the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry to update the Medical Genetics Graduate Student Manual for the 2017/18 term. These changes addressed regulations to improve student life in the department, and clarify further rules and regulations around scholarships and part time jobs. An example of my dedication to help students’ build professional networks, the MGSA and I organize Research Day – an annual event that allows students to showcase their work and interact with faculty and an internationally recognized keynote speaker. As President of the MGSA, I work with my team to organize multiple events for students that take place outside of school and work to connect them with any additional support services they may need to thrive as individuals.

I take great pleasure volunteering each year with the Batting Against Breast Cancer (BABC) softball tournament. We raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year that goes directly to support Breast Cancer Research. This volunteer experience also helps round out my academically inclined approach to solving breast cancer by giving me a chance to interact with the people who it affects everyday.

I have volunteered with the University of Alberta International Syrian Refugee Program for the last two years. There, I help new refuge students adapt and settle in Canada. Being fluent in Arabic and English allows me to be that communicative bridge for Syrian students in and outside of school. This position allows me to help others, but it also serves an important role in my own life. Many of my family members continue to reside in Middle-Eastern countries and have experienced some of the impacts associated with the turmoil on that side of the world. Volunteering with the University of Alberta International Syrian Refugee Program has helped me gain some level of understanding of the impacts my family members have undergone.

Since 2017, I have served as an intern for the IMPORTEN Project Team at the Integrative Health Institute, which involves the collaborative efforts of five universities in the province. This project contributes to the interdisciplinary perspective towards improving and increasing the accessibility to mental health care in Alberta.

I feel privileged to be a part of the Graduate Students Association (GSA) and serve as your Vice-President Student Services for 2018-2019. I have faith in my leadership, advocacy, and communication skills to be effective in my term as your VP Student Services. I have a sharp vision and mission to accomplish.