Class of 2017 Snapshot: Giping (Ping) Tomczyk, BA ‘17 Psychology (Hons)

Meet Giping (Ping) Tomczyk, BA ‘17 Psychology (Hons). For Ping, psychology offered him a new set of tools to examine and explore the world around him. Ping was chosen to represent his psychology peers as Graduating Student Speaker at the convocation ceremony on May 26; an achievement he is proud of. As the speaker, Ping will reflect on his experiences at UBC and speak on behalf of his peers. His advice for future students: be bold, strike a balance, get involved, have fun, and don’t be shy. Ping shares his ideas and inspirations in a Q&A.

First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your interests, research, and awards?

I’m a fourth year honours psychology student from the “little red dot” known as Singapore, and I was born to a Taiwanese mother and a French father. After serving two years as a Police Officer, I came to Vancouver to pursue my undergraduate education. I currently work as a Research Assistant in the Brain and Attention Research Lab, where we explore ways to understand and predict human cognition as it occurs in a real-world context.

My research this year has been focused on investigating mind-wandering and cognition in every day settings (that is, outside of the lab environment). Aside from research in cognitive psychology, my other research interests also include neuropsychology and more generally, processes within the brain.

Some awards I have been fortunate to receive are the Canadian Psychological Association Certificate of Academic Excellence for writing one of the best undergraduate theses this year. I have also received merit-based scholarships, such as Trek Excellence Scholarships and Faculty of Arts Outstanding International Student awards.

 What program were you in?

I was lucky to be a part of the Psychology Honours program. Over the two years that I was involved with the program, Dr. Lawrence Walker was a nurturing mentor who provided me (and everyone in the program) with invaluable personal and academic support. The honours program encourages students to contribute to an environment of driven individuals who are ready to support one another with not just our individual research, but also with achieving personal goals outside of the classroom.

 Why did you choose to study psychology at UBC?

Firstly, I owe everything to my parents, whom I love very dearly, for giving me the opportunity to study abroad. In my first year of university, I enrolled in the “Coordinated Arts Program”, and the stream that I was in focused mainly on Economics and Psychology. I was initially unsure about whether I wanted to major in Economics or Psychology, but I realized that Psychology offered me a set of tools with which I could begin to ask questions about the world around me that I previously couldn’t. I dove right in and never looked back!

Was there anything or anyone who inspired you?

I would like to acknowledge some friends and faculty that were inspiring to me. First, I would like to thank my friends for their inspirational spirit and support: Emma Ward-Griffin, Kyle Dadgar, Brandon Woo, Trish Varao-Sousa and the list goes on. Seeing my friends grow in self-belief and achieve their goals leaves me proud and feeling fortunate to have been surrounded by people of good influence. My undergraduate experience would not have been so enriched and fulfilling without their friendship.

I would also like to thank Dr. Frances Chen and Dr. Alan Kingstone for their trust and generosity in including me into their respective research labs. The act of giving opportunity and empowering students with trust and responsibility is a gesture that I respect immensely, and I will never forget the time I spent working under both of them.

Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Lawrence Walker for his proclivity for optimism and the steady support and belief that he has given me. He challenges me to own ambitious goals, and has been a personal teacher of ideas that guide life, morality, and character.

Is there a single most important moment that has stood out for you during your time as a psychology student?

It’s difficult to reflect upon an entire undergraduate experience and to select a singular moment that stood out, but I can consider a recent reflection.

Recently, I attended PsychFest at UBC, and a few days later, presented some of my research at NOWCAM, a local conference. After watching presentations from within the UBC psychology department and comparing this to external research, I was blown away at the quality of the research that was being conducted at both the undergraduate and graduate level by the UBC psychology department. I realized over these moments how high the standard of psychological research conducted at UBC was. We are certainly well prepared for future endeavors, whether they are in continued ambitions in research, or in other goals, with the teaching that we receive at UBC.

What advice do you have for students on how to carve their own academic path?

I would urge my fellow students to be active participants within their departments and to really take control of their undergraduate education. Don’t be shy to get involved early by creating opportunities or by making meaningful connections with faculty members. Be bold: target courses and opportunities that align with your personal interests.

Perhaps more importantly, if I could give myself one piece of advice at the start of my undergraduate degree, I would have told myself to strike a better balance between my academics and my friends and hobbies. Be open to spending more time outside of books and the classroom, have fun and spend time with your friends, you will still achieve your academic goals.

What was your favourite class, and why?

My favorite class by far was PSYC 301: Brain Dysfunction and Recovery with Dr. Michael Souza. From developing knowledge of neural structures to understanding how neurological impairment allows us to understand how the brain operates, Dr. Souza’s insightful and innovative way to study complex brain functioning gave me a keen interest in studying the brain. Combined with the most unique and charismatic teaching style I have ever experienced, this course was a definite highlight for me. A close second would be PSYC 306: Principles of Animal Behavior with Dr. Kiran Soma. Aside from his witty banter and cheeky one-liners, Dr. Soma effectively imparts critical thinking skills throughout his course that can be applied in many other domains.

Which academic and professional achievements are you most proud of?

Currently, I am perhaps most proud of being nominated as the Graduating Student Speaker of my cohort. I get a high amount of satisfaction from supporting my peers in both their personal and professional goals. So, to represent my peers as we are granted our hard-earned undergraduate degrees together is an achievement that I am proud to have.

What are your future career plans?

At the moment, my immediate plans are still up in the air. Hopefully, I’ll be able to go to graduate or professional school to pursue further studies.