Dr. Susan Porter is the Past President of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS), the Dean and Vice-Provost of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and a Clinical Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC. She studied under Michael Smith for her PhD in Biochemistry at UBC (1988), and with Beatrice Mintz at the Fox Chase Cancer Centre from 1989 to 1991 before returning to UBC. Her early research focused on higher order gene regulation, and later, on molecular-based testing for clinical microbiology. She has also served in successive graduate administration roles at UBC since 2000 in the Faculties of Medicine and Graduate Studies. She was appointed Dean and Vice-Provost in 2013, and was elected President of CAGS in 2017.
A strong focus throughout her administrative career has been the preparation of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to thrive and to contribute meaningfully through their work after graduation or fellowship completion. Gradually understanding that the current paradigm of doctoral education is still not optimally meeting the needs of either students or the realities of the 21st century world, she has been making a concerted effort over the past five years towards a rethinking of the core of doctoral education — students’ research, their dissertation, and the ways in which they learn and are mentored. At UBC, she has been leading a “Reimagining the PhD” conversation and series of initiatives, most notably a multiple award-winning “experiment” (the Public Scholars Initiative) that is demonstrating the immense value and legitimacy of broadening doctoral research that fosters students’ holistic development to better address today’s urgent needs. She has also co-led a national CAGS task force on the subject, and is working to further the conversation and to provide support and resources for the graduate community across Canada and beyond.