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Wesley Jiang

Science › Biomedical Physiology + Kinesiology › Biomedical Physiology

Experience Faculty
As a biomedical physiology student, being able to observe and handle bones of various shapes, sizes, age, and pathological conditions is never boring. This experience has definitely helped me improve my ability to recognize and identify bones, even in fragmentary form.
Experience Details
Application and Interview Tips
  • Practice answering standard/common interview questions. The OLC has an entire interview question database with a variety of questions that you may come across as well as help with how to answer them. Use SFU InterviewStream to record yourself answering some questions. Then replay it back to review how you answered each question as well as what your body was doing while answering the questions. Take note of any bad habits or distracting things you do and try to minimize them.

  • Familiarize yourself with what the company/organization does. Do research prior to the interview in case they ask questions concerning what they do and your opinions on it. Having all the relevant information on hand will also help you come up with questions you can ask at the end to show them that you spent  time looking up their work.

  • Have your attire set up before you sleep as to reduce the amount of stress and rush needed to get ready. Get a good night's rest as to be awake and aware during the interview in case any curveball questions get thrown your way. Relax and answer those questions to the best of your abilities.

Introduction + Preparation

As soon as I got the interview, I learned that it would be a panel interview and that I would have to take a short quiz at the end to test my bone knowledge. Panel interviews are similar to regular interviews. At the end of the day, it's the same questions asked, but with more head turning and attention shifting. I practiced the common interview questions using the OLC as well as some more specific questions.

After feeling slightly more confident in my answers, I looked back through my course notes for the quiz. Prior to this position, I took a human functional anatomy, vertebrate evolution, and histology course which all had a section on bone. Human functional anatomy taught me the basic bones and how to tell their laterality. Vertebrate evolution taught me about the differences in animal anatomy between fish, birds, and early mammals. Histology taught me about bone formation, destruction, and how to tell what it looks like under a microscope. I focused my attention more on the vertebrate evolution material since it dealt with animals the most.

Previous Experience

The only experience that I have ever had working with bones in a lab was course related. Even then, we did not spend too long before moving onto muscles, organs, and vessels. I knew of the major bones in the human body as well as their formation and destruction, thinking that this must also be very similar to animals. I read about this position and thought that I could easily apply my human knowledge to other mammals. This would not be the case.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

During the first week, I had to do many administrative things from paperwork to lab safety courses. I was told I had a flexible schedule, and that I could shift my hours around to fit my needs. I was given a brief rundown of my duties and what they wanted me to accomplish. I was to create an inventory of all the specimens currently in the collections and update their old database. They told me to create the inventory in word and list what kind and how many bones each specimen ID had. I also had to note down any damage or noticeable defects for the bones.

After, they gave me a tour of the archaeology department as well as the forensic labs. They told me that the RCMP and the forensic department work closer to archaeology than criminology since they deal with bones and human remains the most. I learned that there were many different branches of archaeology and each one had a lab to accommodate them.

Day to Day

My day to day schedule is working from Monday to Friday at 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. When I decided to take a course during my 2nd term, it was 8:00 am - 5:00 pm instead. Most of the time I was alone in the lab under minimal supervision. Everyday I would update a log journal to keep track of my progress and to see how long each cabinet would take. The zooarchaeology laboratory has 4 occupied shelves with roughly 11 cabinets each. Each cabinet has between 5-8 trays full of various specimens. There are 3 shelves of mammals and 1 shelf of fish, birds, and reptiles. I would work my way through each specimen by counting and recording their bones in a notebook. After I finished an entire cabinet, I would create the official word document by referring back to my notebook. I would also take a photo of each tray to document how it looks and what was in it. Should I come across any misplaced or mislabeled bones, I would take note and then fix it. 

Before diving into the bones in a new cabinet, I would note down all the specimens in the cabinet and then update the database with their location. I would also need to check if the specimens had any processing worksheets and then use them to update the information on the database. This was my daily routine.

During my 2nd term, I was able to sit in on the Zooarchaeology course to further enhance my archeology knowledge. I also decided that I wanted to learn how to de-flesh a specimen for the collection before I left.

Learning and Adaptation

My position is very repetitive. I learned to get into a routine of taking inventory and developed my own way of quickly writing the  bones and any observations I had in my notebook. For instance, I would denote that a bone was fragmented by drawing two slanted parallel lines and pointing to the bone name with an arrow or I would indicate major damage using a down arrow and an "X". These symbols helped me save time by not needing to write down my entire observation especially when there were multiple of them. 

By spending time to carefully look at the labels on the bones and draw out my observations, I eventually learned how to recognize the bones by their shape. This helped my speed up my inventory taking process. It also helped me learn the cranial bones of fish faster. 

Accomplishments and Challenges

One major accomplishment I have is being able to recognize bones of various animals as well as their siding. This is all thanks to the amount of repetitive practice I got from writing down the inventory of the same type of animal for multiple specimens. Also, needing to figure out the side that a bone fragment belonged to, helped me improve my attention to detail since any little landmark helped.

The greatest challenge for me was learning fish bones. While the body of a fish may be simple, the skull has more than 35 different types of bones and certain bones look very similar. It also did not help that fish have some of the most diverse skulls, leading to the same bone looking very different between two fish. However, using books and online resources, I eventually learned to recognize the bones of a fish.

Wrap Up

Overall, working in the Zooarchaeology lab has helped me develop my observational skills, time management, and patience. Needing to carefully inspect bone fragments to figure out what it was, helped me improve my ability to notice important features. Being under minimal supervision, made me want to use my time well in order to show progress. I would set personal deadlines like wanting to finish one cabinet a week to keep things rolling. Doing a lot of the same work and needing to count many tiny bones in regards to rodents or fish, definitely helped strengthen my patience. It was quicker to take things slow as to not miscount and force a recount. I enjoyed getting to handle bones of animals I never would have seen and probably never will.