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From IDEA-X to PhD Candidate: Meet IDEA-X Alumnus Michelle Fan

Mar 21, 2018 By thomas petitjean

Centre for Digital Media alumna Michelle Fan is doing her Doctoral studies at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Art and Technology (SIAT). While a significant accomplishment in and of itself, the story of how she got here is just as remarkable.

Many people will tell you that a master’s degree, although incredibly rewarding, can be a stressful and time-consuming process. The dedication and precision required to complete it are certainly enough to fill one’s schedule. There is no doubt that many nights of sleep have been lost in the pursuit of higher education. Some students, however, thrive in such situation; Michelle Fan is exactly this type of student.

Nearing completion of her MA from the Communication University of China, Michelle had an opportunity to briefly check out the Master of Digital Media program (MDM). It is through the IDEA-X program, a month-long exchange hosted by the Centre for Digital Media, that Michelle discovered the MDM ethos and developed a strong interest for it.

The IDEA-X program was a great opportunity for me to learn English and get professional experience in a field I’m passionate about. I got to meet people from a range of different backgrounds, I had a chance to develop both hard skills and soft skills making me better prepared for the job market, and it allowed me improve my portfolio.

Michelle began her MDM studies shortly thereafter. She was most interested in the prospect of getting real-world digital media experience, and she saw the opportunities that would be afforded to her by the Centre for Digital Media’s industry-focused curriculum. Knowing that Vancouver was a significant hub for digital media, Michelle consulted with her program supervisor and quickly made the move to the Centre for Digital Media, beginning her coursework shortly after her exchange.

Intrigued by ubiquitous computing, Michelle quickly saw that she could focus her MDM studies in this discipline, similar to the work she’s done at CUC. This way, Michelle realized she was able to approach the phenomenon from both theoretical and technical standpoints.

Throughout the MDM program, Michelle and her team developed a location-based iOS app to teach ESL students English. She saw an opportunity to do further research in that field by doing a PhD at SFU. Michelle started her doctoral studies just a few short months after completing her Master of Digital Media. She’s had a chance to focus her research on a similar problem area, which is the design of tangible and augmented reality systems for children with dyslexia or autism.

Michelle has shown great dedication and poise over her educational career. There is no doubt she’ll continue to perform at an extremely high level. Upon completion of her PhD, Michelle hopes to inspire fertile young minds while teaching at the post-secondary level.


Find out more about the IDEA-X program.

See videos of what the IDEA-X students create.

Read about our latest IDEA-X success story.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2012 and has been updated for accuracy.