Meet Bryan White, Biology Professor

Brian White, Biology Professor
Bryan White, Biology Professor

'Seeing a student’s face when the topic we are learning finally clicks is just amazing.'

Q: What is your education and background?

A: I have an undergraduate degree with honours in biochemistry, a masters degree in post-secondary Education, a PhD degree in Medicine (Focus on reproduction and the signals that initiate labour), and postdoctoral  research in animal reproduction and vascular (blood vessel) development. 

Q: What is your area of interest?

A: Although I started in Biochemistry, as time went on I seemed to transition over to Anatomy and Physiology (A&P). That’s where my real passion lies, and part of the reason I love teaching our A&P course at Okanagan College.

Q: When did you know you had found your discipline?

A: In a weird way, my discipline kind of found me. I did Biochemistry as a pre-med degree, since my original intent was to be a Physician (medical doctor). After an unsuccessful interview with my first attempt (fairly common with medical school, so keep applying), I started a masters degree in the medical school to tide me over and really lock in my next application. However, I enjoyed research and grad school so much, that I decided to stay with it and never applied to medical school again. You never really know what you are meant to do, and there is nothing wrong with changing your mind if something isn’t for you. You are young and have lots of time to figure this out.  

Q: Why did you choose to work at Okanagan College?

A: I’ll let you in on a little secret, I chose OC because they were the one that offered me a job. Academia (university level teaching/research) is a field that allows you to move anywhere in the world pretty easily for work, but jobs are not always plentiful. So you search for jobs and apply for them when they come up, no matter where they are. I had been job hunting for a while and had many interviews, but no offers. So when I got a job offer for one semester of teaching from January-April, my wife and I hopped in our car and drove across country from Newfoundland to BC just before Christmas. Now that I am at OC, I can’t imagine working anywhere else. 

Q: What do you like most about the work you do?

A: Teaching is my love. Seeing a student’s face when the topic we are learning finally clicks is just amazing. Plus, I’m a social person, so I really enjoy building that relationship throughout the year with my students. 

Q: Favourite teaching experience?

A: I have three favourite teaching experiences. The first involves teaching arts students who are scared of science and take Biology as their lab elective. The moment in the semester when they say, “I don’t know why I was afraid of this. Biology is interesting!” is priceless. 
The second is the ability to guide students in their future careers. I had a student a couple of years ago who because of being afraid of science and math, avoided most science courses in high school, but completely aced both of the biology courses for arts students that I taught them. We’re talking almost 100% in both courses. After multiple discussions with the student, they made the decision to transfer to a full science degree (involving the daunting task of high school upgrading). The student aced the full first year science course load, and they are now at UBCO doing a neuroscience/psychology degree! 
The third is when I had a group of pre-nursing students taking A&P come to class on Halloween dressed up as me! It was spot on with clothes, look, and even mannerisms. It shows that you’ve made both a connection with, and an impact on, that group of students. 

Q: Who gave you the best advice you ever received?

A: That would probably be my mom. She always said to do something you love, even if you could make more money with something else. Life is too short to suffer through doing something you hate just for extra money. Also, to make your own path, not just follow the one others direct you towards. 

Q: What advice do you have for new students?

A: My big picture advice is to take your time. You don’t have to go through your degree in 4 years. Try different courses to see what you enjoy. Don’t limit yourself on a certain path, as you REALLY don’t know where you will end up in the end. 
For more practical advice, never miss a lecture if you can help it. You might not think you are getting much from it, but I guarantee you are. And if that lecture is in a large lecture hall, be sure to sit in the first couple of rows where you can’t fall asleep. I’ve been there. I get it.

Q: Why do you think people should study Science?

A: Science, and Biology, is a discipline that opens up a plethora of future career avenues for you. Whether that be professional degrees like Nursing, Pharmacy, or Medicine, or using your degree for teaching, forestry, or agriculture, Biology can take you many places. And if you think of science as a whole, the possibilities are almost limitless.  

Q: If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently?

A: Probably not. I enjoy where I am, who I am, my family, and what I do. The only thing that I would possibly consider, is doing a joint PhD/MD degree. This would have given me even more flexibility when I was searching for jobs.  

Q: Where are you the happiest?

A: Anywhere my wife and kids are! Although a close second has to be sitting on the beach at our family cabin in Newfoundland. Smelling the salt water and seaweed, and looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Published By Public Affairs on July 6, 2021


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