Maryam Kebbe, '19 PhD


Student: Maryam Kebbe

Program: PhD

Convocation Date: November 20, 2019

Supervisor: Geoff Ball

What is your background and what led you to graduate studies in the Department of Pediatrics at the U of A?
My undergraduate background is in the biological sciences… with added spice of French (undergraduate minor)! During that time, I sought opportunities to explore a variety of career paths, including academic, medical, and industry positions. Based on these experiences, I developed a passion for clinical research and teaching in nutrition- and pediatric-related fields, which led me to pursue graduate studies in the Department of Pediatrics at the U of A.

How did the Department of Pediatrics prepare you for the next step in your career?
I could publish a paper just on this very question! The overall highlight would be having had my potential nurtured. My supervisor (Geoff Ball), committee members (Michele Dyson, Anna Farmer, Tara-Leigh McHugh, and Shannon Scott), and fellow colleagues (Arnaldo Perez and Jill Byrne and Nadia Browne, among many others) continually supported my personal and professional growth. They motivated me to reach my full potential through countless research and professional development opportunities, stimulating discussions, and blooming friendships. My experience would not have been the same without every person who was a part of my journey.

Were there challenges or things that were harder than you imagined?
Coming from humid Ottawa, the dry cold of Edmonton really took some getting used to… Academically speaking, there will almost always be times you will have to delegate tasks to others, and this comes with letting go of some control over your project. Learning to accept that this is part of the process, and to optimize your own time during this time, is therefore really important. It can even be a bonus to take a step back and reflect on your progress and trajectory.

Do you have any tips for new graduate students or those who are nearly completed?
The beauty of personal growth is that, unsurprisingly, it’s personal, and almost always comes from within and one’s own experiences. If I can share a few tips and tricks from my own experiences, though, these come to mind:

  • Challenge yourself, for you.
  • Do it because you’re passionate about it, not to check off the list.
  • It’s never too early to start preparing for the next step.
  • It’s never too late to change paths.
  • Learn to say no, so you can say yes to other things. Find a work-life balance that works for your life.
  • Don’t sprint the marathon: your journey is unique to you, and it is not in your benefit to compare yourself to others.
  • A relevant saying goes: A good dissertation is a done dissertation, so be willing to let go of the ‘imperfect’.

Has your journey's "destination" changed or morphed from what you thought it would be at the beginning?
In every sense of the way. I came in with the intention to complete a master’s degree, not knowing what to expect, and walked out with an even bigger passion for research, understanding of science, and a PhD. My destination will always be about improving the health and well-being of others on an individual and population level, and it is so rewarding and humbling to be able to contribute to this cause on a day-to-day basis for a living.

What will you miss about the Department of Pediatrics and your time here?
The department quickly became a home for me and, just like family, will stay with me regardless of time and distance. I had many great moments with many great people at many great places (this wouldn’t be a complete interview without a shoutout to Remedy Cafe! P.S. Many think I’m sponsored, I’m not).

What have you been up to since you completed your program and where are you headed next?
Since my time in the Department of Pediatrics, I joined the Medical Sciences Division (Health Behaviours Team) at the University of Oxford as a Postdoctoral Researcher. I am enjoying every second, rain or shine! What’s next on the agenda is returning to North America as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (Baton Rouge, Louisiana - back to humidity!). This experience will equip me with theoretical and technical skills in the metabolic and endocrine physiology of obesity, which I will apply in my own academic lab to elucidate responses to nutrition, physical activity, and behavioural interventions.