Alumni Spotlight, People
Alum Joyce Epp’s academic journey in mathematics led her to a rewarding career saving lives with numbers
February 9, 2016
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
BSc, UBC (2015)
"This work has the potential to greatly influence early detection in BC and many of the 1-in-9 Canadian women diagnosed with breast cancer."
AT THE BC CANCER AGENCY, UBC alum Joyce Epp works with a combination of biology, computer science, economics, statistics and math applications.
“Having a prior understanding of these subjects has helped prepare me for new projects in previously unknown subjects, such as cancer research,” she says.
As an early detection research intern, Epp’s primary job is to work directly with research projects. Her current project aims to provide clinicians and policy makers with a quantitative tool to guide treatment and early detection decisions.
“Since early detection is of extreme importance in cancer survival, as part of a larger micro-simulation project, this work has the potential to greatly influence early detection in British Columbia and many of the 1-in-9 Canadian women diagnosed with breast cancer in the years to come.”
As a student, Epp quickly realized UBC’s Okanagan campus had much more to offer than beautiful weather and a great location.
Soon after arriving on campus she got involved with the Quantitative Sciences Course Union (QSCU) as VP of Finance and became an undergraduate teaching assistant.
“I made an effort to become actively involved in events held on campus. Despite the challenge of learning how to time manage, I was able to take on even more responsibilities and still be able to maintain sound academic performance.”
The resources and networking opportunities provided by the QSCU were a major contributor to Epp’s UBC experience. In fact, Epp learned about her current position while attending QSCU’s Career Day.
RESEARCH & TEACHING HIGHLIGHTS
Epp chose UBC Okanagan for several reasons, the most compelling of which was her desire to attend a well-respected Canadian university that offers the benefits of a close-knit campus community. The prospect of small classes and being able to interact closely with professors made it a simple decision.
For Epp, one of the many highlights of attending UBC Okanagan was being surrounded by research.
“Current and interesting research posters line the walls of the campus buildings, serving as a reminder of the impact UBC faculty, grads, undergrads, and staff have on society, both local and global,” she says.
“There are many professors who supervise undergraduate research, providing opportunities for students that may not be available at other universities.”
While Epp has high praise for all of her former professors, she particularly credits Associate Professor Rebecca Tyson for her academic success.
“Professor Tyson’s enthusiasm for the courses she teaches is contagious. The course content was challenging at times, but she made a genuine effort to help me understand the course concepts.
“She also was willing to share her story of being a woman in the field of math and the challenges that she faced along the way to becoming a professor.”
“UBC gave me the confidence to reason through a problem, find an answer, and evaluate the solution,” says Epp. “Perhaps the most important thing my UBC experience has provided is the ability to learn.
“I use unfamiliar programs and analysis methods, but I am able to work with these tools using the foundation of skills I developed at UBC.”
Epp plans to continue to use her training in math and science to help people.
“It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day living and sometimes forget that the world is full of hurting people. And while I’m not volunteering in a foreign country, it is still possible to help right here in the Okanagan.
“Learning math at UBC opened my eyes to the possibilities that can be achieved with math, including the breast cancer research I am doing now.”
Epp’s knowledge, experience and skills combined with her desire to assist others position her for the exciting unexplored possibilities that lie ahead.
—by May Li