Laurel L. Watters Research Fellowship

Deadline: Likely July 2020.

A fellowship has been made available through an endowment established by the Estate of John Imrie Watters for a deserving graduate student or medical resident in the Faculty of Medicine engaged in research into the causes, treatment, and cure of breast cancer. Mr. Watters passed away in 2002. The awards are made on the recommendation of the Faculty of Medicine, and in the case of graduate students, in consultation with the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.


$20,600 for one year.


Applicants must be registered as full-time graduate students or medical residents in the Faculty of Medicine. Applicants must be in good academic standing, and conducting research under the supervision of a UBC faculty member who has a primary appointment in the Faculty of Medicine. Applicants who already hold a major award at the time of the award conferral will not be eligible to receive payment of the award and will be recognized in name only if successful.

Application Procedure

A completed application consists of:

1. Application for the Fellowship
a.) Complete, sign and scan the Application Form in either PDF or Word formats.
b.) Submit the Application Form via the Online Portal.

2. Post-secondary transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended
Copies of transcripts are accepted, but must be initialed by the candidate’s supervisor. Initialing of official sealed transcripts is not required. Electronic copies are also accepted, and do not require initialing if sent directly from the applicant’s graduate program administrator.

3. Letters of support from two sponsors
One letter should be from the proposed or current supervisor of the candidate, and the other from an individual familiar with the candidate’s academic and research abilities. Sponsors should be asked to comment on the candidate’s research potential and achievements, interpersonal skills, academic abilities, and greatest strengths and weaknesses. Electronic copies of letters of support are accepted if sent directly from the sponsor. To facilitate a blind review process, please ask your supervisor to not use your name, gender specific pronouns, or similar identifying characteristics in their letters. They should refer to you as “The Trainee” as needed. 

Complete applications need to be received by: Likely July 2020.

Transcripts and letters of support should be submitted to:
Associate Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Education
c/o Research Education Facilitator
317-2194 Health Sciences Mall
Vancouver BC, V6T 1Z3 

Please refer to the Guidelines and FAQs for specific formatting and submission details.

Laurel L. Watters Research Fellowship Recipients

James Wells is a PhD Candidate in the Interdisciplinary Oncology program, researching breast cancer under the supervision of Dr. Peter Stirling. Research has demonstrated that women have a higher susceptibility to breast cancer if they inherit a faulty Fanconi Anemia (FA) pathway, a DNA damage repair pathway. James’ previous research has shown that activators of the FA pathway are needed to tolerate certain disruptions to DNA replication that can lead to DNA damage and therefore cancer. James’ study will build upon these results to determine the role of mutated FA genes in cancer growth. The results of this study will expand our understanding of how DNA damage is prevented and may contribute to the development of therapies to further lower breast cancer mortality rates in women.


Daniel Kwon is an MD/PhD Candidate, studying under the supervision of Dr. Francois Benard.  Daniel is focusing on targeting elements of the tumour microenvironment that enable the spread of cancer cells, called metastasis, a key contributor to the high mortality rate of cancer patients. As cancer cells expressing high amounts of the C-X-C Chemokine Receptor 4 (CXCR4) are more likely to metastasize, Daniel has developed a radioactive drug that enables the non-invasive diagnosis of aggressive variants of cancers. Daniel and his colleagues have demonstrated that this drug visualizes cancers accurately and is able to be produced with a more widely available radioisotope, making clinical translation more feasible. Daniel hopes that the successful translation of this radioactive drug will enable early diagnosis and monitoring of aggressive types of cancer with low survival rates for early intervention.

Hakwoo Lee is a MSc student in the Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Program, studying under the supervision of Dr. Samuel Aparicio. Hakwoo researches breast cancer, the second most common cause of cancer death in women in Canada. More than 90% of these cancer deaths occur because of the spread of cancerous cells through the body, known as metastasis. Hakwoo hypothesizes that specific genomic features responsible for cancer spread can be identified by understanding the behavior of groups of cells that have the same origin (clones). He plans to determine which clones are responsible for the spread of cancerous cells and what characteristics they possess. Hakwoo’s study will enhance the understanding of how cancer cells spread and may lead to the discovery of new potential therapeutic targets to prevent or to delay cancer cells from spreading.