By Anne Russell. Sol Sun was a busy man at UFV’s recent convocation ceremonies. He was the student speaker for the College of Arts ceremony, the dean’s medalist for the Faculty of Social Sciences within the College of Arts, and the Governor General’s silver medalist, an honour bestowed upon the graduate from a four-year degree program with the highest grade point average (GPA) at the university.
Sun scored a perfect 4.33 GPA on last 30 credits (an A+ average), and earned a cumulative CGPA of 4.24 over the course of his Bachelor of Arts degree in honours psychology.
When he used to tell his friends that he was studying psychology at university, they would immediately ask him to analyze their dreams. But there’s much more to psychology than that. Sun’s specialty is the study of memory, and he has been working for several years on projects in UFV’s psychology lab.
“Studying memory has changed the way I look at life,” he says. “Once you really get into studying it you begin to realize just how fallible your memory is and you don’t trust it as much.”
His particular area of focus was how people recognize faces and recognition memory — how someone recognizes stimuli in an environment that they believe they have seen before.
He is grateful for the hands-on research opportunities he had at UFV.
“I heard there were good opportunities for research here. My friends at the bigger schools say they don’t get the same opportunities. There are bigger labs there, but much smaller roles for undergraduates. Here you can design a study and follow it through to the end.”
The opportunities he had at UFV fostered his passion for learning.
“If there is one personal factor that may have contributed to my success, I would say it is a passion to keep learning. No matter how much time one spends studying, the end result will never be as great as someone who truly wants to learn the material just because it is interesting. I remember in Grade 9 science, my teacher told us that marks don’t matter and we should learn for the sake of learning. I thought he was crazy. Then, throughout university, people helped me realize that he was right all along. When I made this realization, the marks came naturally, but I didn’t really care about them anymore. I believe the key to success is doing what you do, for the sake of doing that thing. That’s been my mentality over the past four years and I can certainly, to some degree, attribute my success to that philosophy.”
Although he is honoured to have won the top academic medal for an undergraduate, he is also eager to share the credit.
“I’m a firm believer that one’s achievements are never truly individual and are always influenced by others. Therefore I would attribute my success to having an amazing team of individuals on my side. First and foremost would be my honours thesis advisor, Dr. Andrea Hughes. She was truly everything I could ask for in a mentor, personable, caring, experienced, intelligent, and always kept my best interests in mind. An enormous proportion of my success can be attributed to the amazing support I received from her.”
He also thanked other members of the Psychology department at UFV.
“On a larger level, the entire psychology department was very much a part of my success in winning this award. Dr. Wayne Podrouzek taught me to always be critical and think logically about everything. Dr. Robyn White taught me to be careful and concise with my words. Dr. Sven Van de Wetering taught me never to miss the forest for the trees and always try to see the big picture. Dr. Lesley Jessiman taught me to always view events in an individual’s life as part of the entire lifespan. Dr. Zoe Dennison taught me that nothing is ideal and one must always weigh costs and benefits in any decision.”
In addition to his research and studies, Sol served as president of the Student Psychology Association. He sends thanks to his family, friends, and fellow members of the association.
Sol’s goal is to attain a PhD and become a researcher in the field of cognitive psychology/neuroscience. He will be attending graduate school at the University of Toronto in September. He says that conducting research in the UFV psychology lab under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Hughes was absolutely critical to both gaining acceptance into graduate school, and acquiring the necessary skills to be successful in the future.