Take a look in your cupboards and you’ll probably find a number of natural health products. According to the Government of Canada website, 71 per cent of Canadians use natural health products. Those items can include everyday things like vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional medicines, probiotics, and other products like amino acids and essential fatty acids.
But how do you know they’re safe? That’s where dedicated researchers like Jamie Finley, BCIT alumnus, come in.
Jamie is a research assistant in the Natural Health and Food Products Research Group (NRG) with BCIT’s Applied Research department. He focuses on advancing the state of practice for the characterization and quality control of commercial and research-based natural health products. His research can have implications for health and plays a critical role in risk assessment.
“[To have] the ability to influence change in the world and to develop methods to ensure that food production, medications, and anything that people are using or consuming are safe—it’s fulfilling to see the impact,” he says.
Working to make a difference
Jamie graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and Diploma of Technology from UBC and BCIT. His career began as a co-operative student with UBC Michael Smith Laboratories and BCIT’s NRG. Jamie went on to characterize lipids, plasmid DNA, and siRNA for a leading molecular therapeutics company and was involved in developing chemical characterization methods for therapeutic study. Prior to joining NRG, he worked as a microbiologist for a leading BC analytical laboratory where he analyzed the microbiological and chemical parameters of different materials.
In his current role at BCIT, Jamie is analyzing the increasingly popular kombucha beverage.
“Kombucha is a large industry in North America,” he says. “We are doing work to better understand and to provide guidelines to those fermentation-based drinks. Fermentation is the process where yeasts consume sugar and, as a by-product of this, can become ethanol and there are regulatory limits around this. As ethanol consumption in beverages are regulated, we need to establish validated test methods for industry to use.”
Jamie emphasizes the discoveries of the research come down to teamwork: “If you really want to do well in anything, it helps to be part of a team. Any time there is a group involved, if you can get a team together, you can ultimately be more successful.”
His contributions to BCIT and the broader community are rooted not only in his commitment to BCIT’s applied model but also in his experience as a student and staff person who is Deaf.
Advocating for inclusion
“The world is very dependent on sound-based communication as a structure, and I have to advocate for what I need in terms of work and communication,” Jamie says, adding that advocating for himself as a Deaf employee and former student at BCIT will help improve accessibility for anyone like him in the future. He hopes it will inspire others to look at how their places of work, community, or learning can be inclusive of everyone.
He was also a past volunteer president of BC Deaf Sports, a non-profit organization supporting Deaf and Hard of Hearing athletes in BC in their sport.
“A lot of my advocacy work revolves around awareness of accessibility,” Jamie says. “It involves bringing in my outside experience in terms of making information accessible with captions in videos online, etc., and bringing in interpreters as a full colleague for everyone rather than just providing this as an accommodation. Deaf persons [should be] full participants in the academic world.”
As a researcher, a BCIT Faculty and Staff Association (FSA) member, and an advocate, Jamie is committed to making things better.
“I am proud to have the ability to follow through on what I’m passionate about,” he says. “I don’t let the restrictions of society hold me back.”
BCIT is pleased to recognize Jamie with the 2019 BCIT FSA Distinguished Alumni Award at the celebration gala on October 22, 2019.
“I am honoured that my efforts are valued and taken to improve approaches and processes in my union [FSA],” he says. “I hope this recognition will spread elsewhere in terms of improving awareness of accessibility and accommodation. More often than not, I’m known as the Deaf guy. It’s nice to be recognized for who I am: Jamie.”