Psychology PhD student Victoria Wardell receives 2023 Killam Donald N. Byers Memorial Prize

Psychology PhD student Victoria Wardell has been recognized as the recipient of the 2023 Killam Donald N. Byers Memorial Prize for her contributions to research at UBC.

The Killam Donald N. Byers Memorial Prize was created by UBC in 2002 in memory of Donald N. Byers. For 27 years, he worked closely with Dorothy Killam as the Managing Trustee to establish the Killam scholarships and awards. This prize is now awarded to the highest-ranking Killam Doctoral Fellow in the annual Tri-Agency and Affiliated Fellowships competition.

“It is such a privilege to be recognized with this award. It would not have been possible without the incredible support from my supervisors, Dr. Connor Kerns and Dr. Daniela Palombo, as well as the research teams in the Anxiety Stress and Autism Program (ASAP) and Memory and Imagination labs here at UBC. We’ve made incredible scientific contributions, and this recognition goes to all of us!”
PhD Student, UBC Psychology

Join us in congratulating Victoria on this recognition!

About Victoria Wardell

Victoria is a first-year PhD student in the clinical psychology program, conducting her research in the Memory and Imagination Lab under the supervision of Dr. Daniela Palombo. Her current research explores how people remember experiences from their personal pasts, and more specifically how negative emotions inform the way individuals organize their memories into stories.

What do you find interesting about your research?

I’m very interested in how the malleability of memory affords us some flexibility in how we integrate life experiences into our life stories, and more broadly into our sense of self. My current projects seek to answer questions like; do traumatic experiences limit our ability to construct a coherent memory? How might negative emotion inform the consistency with which we remember an experience over time? How does the way we remember our life story inform our current mental health?

What motivates you as a PhD student?

I draw inspiration from my incredible mentors, both within and beyond UBC, the resilient clients I work with in my clinical practica, and the belief that we can improve the lives of a lot of people if we just remain open towards and curious about each other’s experiences.

Do you have any advice for students?

Academia can be overwhelming sometimes. When you start to feel anxious, try to take a step back and ask yourself what goal you are trying to accomplish. Anxiety has an incredible effect of throwing up blinders so that we cannot see past the end of the semester, week, or even the end of the day. When your focus and attention is that acute, it can all start to feel a little meaningless. But most students are not planning to be students for the next 50 years! 

In moments when stress is high, try to pull back and remind yourself of your unique reason for being here. Each individual assignment or test is really one small stepping stone towards that big picture purpose. Zooming out makes each task, each grade, hold a little less weight.