Erika Dyck, Professor, Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine

Erika Dyck, Professor, Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine

BY: as told by Erika Dyck / as written by Catherine Nygren

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I completed my MA in Saskatoon in 1998, and then moved to Ontario and worked as a legal secretary in corporate law. I had been volunteering at a nascent museum on the history of psychiatry, and after meeting my eventual PhD supervisor, I decided to study the history of the relationship between LSD and medical experimentation. TAships, RAships, and teaching my own course supplemented funding and provided valuable experience, and my supervisor created many opportunities for me to participate fully in academic culture, including conferences and administration.

I began my PhD in 2001 and defended in 2005, spurred by interest in my project, a four-year funding package, and a job offer at University of Alberta in my final year. I defended my dissertation and moved to Edmonton the next day! The job was a tenure-track position cross-appointed in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Faculty of Arts. It was almost like two jobs, with two different Department Chairs, etc.

In my three years at Alberta, I was also a co-director of the History of Medicine Program. Then, in 2008 I received an invitation to apply for a Canada Research Chair position at the University of Saskatchewan, and I got the job.

Overall, both of these successful experiences surprised me to some extent, especially when I was still ABD and my post-doc applications were unsuccessful—I was considering returning to play varsity soccer so as to take more time to finish the dissertation. I feel very fortunate to have gotten my PhD and a job when I did, considering the tragic lack of increases to funding packages during grad school and the difficulty of finding a job afterward.

I’m wary of offering advice in hindsight, especially when it might be perceived as patronizing, but the advice I received at the beginning of my PhD has stuck with me: everyone in graduate school struggles with self-doubt, and it never goes away, we just find new ways of dealing with it.


Photo note: Erika Dyck, visiting a Japanese temple in 2008 as part of a visiting professorship. This particular shrine was a place to cultivate academic or scholarly luck. Touching the statues of these bull figures is meant to bestow luck.

I completed my MA in Saskatoon in 1998, and then moved to Ontario and worked as a legal secretary in corporate law. I had been volunteering at a nascent museum on the history of psychiatry, and after meeting my eventual PhD supervisor, I decided to study the history of the relationship between LSD and medical experimentation. TAships, RAships, and teaching my own course supplemented funding and provided valuable experience, and my supervisor created many opportunities for me to participate fully in academic culture, including conferences and administration.

I began my PhD in 2001 and defended in 2005, spurred by interest in my project, a four-year funding package, and a job offer at University of Alberta in my final year. I defended my dissertation and moved to Edmonton the next day! The job was a tenure-track position cross-appointed in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Faculty of Arts. It was almost like two jobs, with two different Department Chairs, etc.

In my three years at Alberta, I was also a co-director of the History of Medicine Program. Then, in 2008 I received an invitation to apply for a Canada Research Chair position at the University of Saskatchewan, and I got the job.

Overall, both of these successful experiences surprised me to some extent, especially when I was still ABD and my post-doc applications were unsuccessful—I was considering returning to play varsity soccer so as to take more time to finish the dissertation. I feel very fortunate to have gotten my PhD and a job when I did, considering the tragic lack of increases to funding packages during grad school and the difficulty of finding a job afterward.

I’m wary of offering advice in hindsight, especially when it might be perceived as patronizing, but the advice I received at the beginning of my PhD has stuck with me: everyone in graduate school struggles with self-doubt, and it never goes away, we just find new ways of dealing with it.


Photo note: Erika Dyck, visiting a Japanese temple in 2008 as part of a visiting professorship. This particular shrine was a place to cultivate academic or scholarly luck. Touching the statues of these bull figures is meant to bestow luck.

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