Where Are They Now? Q&A with Former BioCanRx HQPs

At BioCanRx, we are incredibly proud of our HQP and their dedication to cancer immunotherapy research. Whether they are working on viruses in the lab or examining the socioeconomic barriers to adopting certain treatments in Canada, each one plays a unique role in strengthening our network and expertise in immunotherapy.


BioCanRx is invested in our HQP by providing them with both the training and skills they need to be leaders in academia and industry. We are pleased to introduce Maartje Wouters, a former post-doc with Dr. Brad Nelson at BC Cancer in Victoria.


1. Tell us about yourself. Give us a brief background. Who are you? Where did you go to school and what is your association to BioCanRx?


Hello, my name is Maartje. I was born and raised in the Netherlands, and now live in Victoria, BC. During my undergrad and grad studies, I was always interested in cancer research. When I got a chance to perform research in labs abroad during my MSc I took that opportunity with both hands. I found myself research projects in Belgium and Queen’s University in Kingston, ON. After that, I started a PhD in tumor immunology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I missed Canada and aimed to go back for a postdoc and found a good match in the lab of Brad Nelson at BC Cancer in Victoria. I researched immune infiltrates and the tumor microenvironment characteristics in ovarian cancer, which was partially funded by BioCanRx.


2. Where do you work now, and what is your position?


I have started my own freelance medical writing business (wouterswriting.com). I realized I wanted to contribute to science in a different way as I had done before. I sought to leave the lab bench but still ensure my work supports bringing new therapies to patients. Writing allows me to do that. I can work for both academia and biotech companies on a wide variety of writing projects, such as clinical trial protocols, white papers, and patient information.


3. What does typical work day look like for you?


The work I do is a bit different every day. Projects usually entail a combination of writing, editing, and consulting on methods, costs, etc. The variability is what makes it so interesting to me. Different types of texts have different audiences and it is essential to adjust your writing accordingly. When you freelance, you also have to take care of other parts of the business such as dealing with finances, finding new clients, managing your website, continuing education, etc. It has been a steep learning curve, but grad school experiences really help you to be successful (and resilient) in something like this. There are challenges, but it is very rewarding to be in control and be your own boss.


4. How has your experience with BioCanRx contributed to your career development?


BioCanRx helped me perform my research by directly funding it but has also allowed me to attend multiple conferences and workshops to learn and get inspired for my research. Additionally, I was on the organizing committee for the HQP day at the Summit. This was a great experience, it really helps your skill sets in organizing, networking, public speaking, etc. Furthermore, I served as a reviewer for abstracts and presentations for the Summit and for summer student applications. These were invaluable experiences, in particular for writing. You really look at a text differently when you are in the seat of the reviewer. This now allows me to judge a finished draft and think: ‘how would I look at this if I was the reviewer?’ I definitely recommend HQP to get involved in these sorts of activities.


5. What advice do you have for career development that you would pass on to other BioCanRx trainees?


Be open to possibilities and explore. There are so many fulfilling careers you can do with your background, especially in the field we are in. Connecting with people in various jobs and attending career webinars has really helped me figure out what I wanted to do. Your time as an HQP is a great time to learn, so make the most of it. I also recommend joining the BioCanRx committees BioCanRx. Helping organize the trainee day at the Summit and serving as a reviewer are terrific ways to get experience outside of your research work. Also, if you ever have the chance to go for lab visits or training in other labs, in Canada or abroad, I would definitely recommend it. It is such a fun experience and you are guaranteed to learn a lot.


If you are interested in writing, please check our blog for women in STEM (thebiogirls.com). Together with two other BioCanRx HQP — Sophie Sneddon and Céline Laumont — I write, edit, and run social media for our platform. We are always looking for new contributions, both from those further in their careers and those just starting out. We would love to hear from you!