Skip to main content

Erica Dong

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences › Population and Public Health

Position Title
Working as a research assistant studying Chronic Wasting Disease has been an insightful and rewarding experience that has strengthened my career goals.
Experience Details
Application and Interview Tips
  • It can be helpful to practice answering common interview questions to prepare yourself and build your confidence with answering questions prior to having to do it in the interview.
  • Reflect on why you want this job and how it fits in with your academic and career goals. This will help prepare you to answer questions you may receive in the interview, but besides that it is important to reflect on it for yourself and may help you be more focused, interested, and driven. 
  • Prepare some questions you'd like to ask your employer ahead of time. 
Introduction + Preparation
Previous Experience
  • I was a research intern at my previous co-op during Summer 2022 at Wits MRU in Durban, South Africa. This was my first introduction to working in research and I really enjoyed the experience. It was in-person in the office, whereas my current co-op is remote.
  • After my co-op at Wits MRU ended, I continued working on a research study I was helping with during the co-op. This is a part-time remote research assistant job which I am still working. It has furthered my experience in research.
  • In Fall 2022, I was a communications assistant with Aging in the Right Place (AIRP). My key tasks were supporting communications (email, social media, newsletter) and creating infographics for research studies. 
During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting my supervisor on my first day at a coffee shop. As the job is remote, I really appreciated my supervisor proposing to meet in-person on the first day. In a remote job I had before, I never got a chance to meet my supervisor, so I really appreciated getting to meet her right away. Personally, I would highly recommend others who choose remote jobs to take opportunities to meet/work with their supervisors and colleagues in-person at least once near the beginning for more engagement and to help build a closer relationship.

During the meeting on my first day, my supervisor and I went over job tasks, long-term goals of the research project, what my everyday workday may look like, my career and academic goals, what I want to gain from the co-op, and more. It was a fantastic way to start. I felt very refreshed, excited, and eager to begin. 

The first weeks went smoothly. I quickly got accustomed to working full-time remotely for the first time, as I found many aspects of the nature of it to be very similar to studying. Being self-disciplined and organized is key to working remotely, just like studying. 

In the first weeks, my employer organization got all the co-op students and our supervisors together for a lunch, which was a great way to meet the others and hear about the other ongoing projects. 

Day to Day

Day structure:

Working from home is definitely a privilege, as I can simply wake up and sit in front of my computer to begin working. No rushing to get out of the house on time to commute to work. I start my workday by writing a checklist of the tasks I want to complete or if I made one, looking over the checklist I made the day before. Then I work through the morning, before taking a long break at noon to go running, shower, and have lunch. When I sit back down to continue working, I feel refreshed. This is the same way I schedule my study days and I love being able to practice this routine while working from home. I usually have 3-4 meetings a week with my supervisor, and otherwise I am always working independently alone. However, I am lucky that my supervisor is always available to answer my questions via Slack, which makes problem-solving seamless.  

Work content:

I am leading two research projects about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal prion disease affecting deer. I am conducting literature reviews about the human dimensions of CWD and CWD management strategies. I also have opportunities for training and skills-building, such as lab training at the Nanaimo facility where I got to sample deer for CWD. 

Learning and Adaptation

Working remotely requires being self-disciplined. Since I began this co-op with excitement and enthusiasm for my research, this was not difficult at the start. As the co-op went on, I realized I needed to put in more purposeful effort to maintain this self-discipline. To do this, I made sure to continue making checklists every day of the tasks I need to / hope to complete as this helps me stay focused and on task. I also found it helpful to take a few minutes at least once a week to reflect on my learning objectives for this co-op, what impact it is having on my academic and career goals, and if my work of late has been meeting my learning objectives and hopes of what I would gain from this co-op. This helps remind myself of why I am doing it, the benefits of it, re-spark the passion and interest I have in the research, and highlight any areas of concern that I can then discuss with my supervisor. 

Reflection & Tips

When I began my co-op, I knew I needed to make the most of it in order to be satisfied with myself. From my first co-op, I knew that four months go by in a blink of an eye. As I was fortunate enough to obtain another co-op relevant to my career goals, I knew this was an invaluable opportunity to gain an idea of what my desired field could look like. I made sure to regularly reflect on my learning goals and to ensure I was progressing in them throughout the term. Due to being mindful and purposeful with working towards my goals, I am not just satisfied but extremely happy with my co-op term and the experience I gained from it. 


Erica Dong

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences › Population and Public Health
visibility  483
Nov 14, 2023

Interested in other Research Assistant Positions?