Empowering the Next Generation: An Interview with Kyle Amaral, 2022 Graduate and Fellowship Research Award Recipient

The WHRI’s Strategic Plan 2019-2024 includes the Strategic Framework for Trainees and Mentorship, which aims to boost women’s health research capacity by supporting the next generation of scholars. In 2020, the WHRI introduced the Graduate and Fellowship Research Award in Women’s Health, providing salary support to trainees conducting research in women’s and newborn health without major competitive salary awards.

Thank you to the BC Ministry of Health and the BC Women’s Health Foundation for supporting these awards!

We spoke with Kyle Amaral, Graduate Student (MSc), UBC Department of Medicine (Experimental Medicine), who was the Master’s Level award recipient. Kyle reveals how the award supported his career and shares advice for potential applicants. Read about his experiences below!

1. What was your funded project?

My funded project was titled "The Immunogenicity of Acellular Pertussis Vaccination in Pregnant Women with and without HIV, and Their Newborns in Uganda." With this study, we aimed to examine the amount and function of pertussis-specific antibodies in women living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after acellular pertussis vaccination during pregnancy, compared with women without HIV and their infants, before and after their routine vaccinations. While it is known that antibodies play a crucial role in protection against pertussis, there is no specific amount of antibody that is definitively considered protective. This work will help us understand the role of antibody amount and function in pertussis immunization during pregnancy for women living with HIV, and it may provide valuable information for the development of new vaccines.

2. What was the impact of receiving this award?

This award has provided me with additional funds to support myself while living in one of the most expensive cities in North America. Furthermore, having an award with this sizable amount has made me more competitive for other award applications and graduate programs. Through this award, I have also been exposed to the field of women’s health research. Although it is a vast field, I have learned a lot about the importance of research in women’s health. Additionally, I had the opportunity to attend and share preliminary results at the annual women’s health symposium, which further developed my communication and knowledge translation skills.

3. What advice would you share for those looking to apply?

My main advice to anyone thinking about applying for this award is simple: just apply! While you might believe there are more established applicants, you will never know until you try. The application process is very straightforward and of reasonable length compared to other awards applications. When putting together your application, make sure your proposal outlines a feasible project that can be completed within the year of funding. Additionally, take the time to thoroughly review the suggested documents for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) to truly understand the importance of that section. Lastly, start your application sooner rather than later to allow time for refining and submitting your best possible proposal.

Thank you for your words of wisdom Kyle. And as he mentions, just apply!

Visit our graduate and fellowship awards page to learn more about application instructions and deadlines.