Julia Suen, Animation Intern


Julia Suen

Julia is an animator and illustrator born in Vancouver, BC, and is a graduate from Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a BFA in animation. In 2012, she collaborated with CityStudio in producing a 30-second film to promote Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 goals. She has recently completed Penpals, a 3-minute animated short, as her graduation thesis. Julia’s goal is to continue to create and contribute to projects that breathe life into amazing characters and narratives.

During her internship, Julia has been actively juggling multiple projects. She has worked with our commercialization analyst intern Fraser Larock by providing him beautiful images to supplement his presentations for the Lignin project. Julia is also working closely with Grape and Wine Genomics researcher Carlo Vargas by using animation to explain the product he is developing to potential customers in the wine industry. Her other projects with us include animating pieces for the Applied Metagenomics of the Watershed Microbiome project and the Metamixis team, who are alumni of our Lean Launch Pad program.

What is your academic background and background in animation?

Since I could remember, I have been drawing and creating characters. I have taken lessons but I’ve learned that knowledge and inspiration comes from literally anywhere and anything! Academically, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in Animation from Emily Carr University. I focus mainly on 2D animation but I also create illustrations with various mediums.

How did you come across the animation position with us?

I heard of the position from an email sent from my university. It seemed like a perfect fit for me as I have always held an interest in science and, with the genomics.entrepreneurship@UBC team, I would be able to learn and work with researchers while producing animated videos. It may seem childish but, when I first learned of the program, I immediate thought of The Magic School Bus and Bill Nye the Science Guy, and imagined that I could create videos as inspiring as them!

What is your process of creating animation videos?

My process begins with the idea, message or story, the backbone of what the video needs to be. The majority of the time is spent working with the researchers to define their message into a one to two-minute long video, discovering who their target audience is, and choosing the right aesthetics of the video. Once those are determined, I go into full production but still keep in touch with the researchers to make sure facts are accurate and the visuals are appropriate.

What have you learned so far during your internship?

A ton of things! I have learned about wine grapes and how water is the key to producing quality wines, how genomics is changing the future for a better tomorrow for both humanity and the environment, and how people from various disciplines can work together to do amazing things.

The genomics.entrepreneurship@UBC program is a unique program where nearly everything we do is new but it comes with a lot of challenges. To solve these challenges, we adapt and learn to find out which is the best solution for each problem.

What were some of the challenges of this internship?

Communication is always a challenge, especially in a team where there are people from various disciplines, we need to be aware to not use any lingo or concepts without explaining it clearly first. And because we do not all work in the same space, it is sometimes difficult to get together for discussions and share feedback.

Explaining concepts is another common challenge. The Watershed project was especially challenging because there were so many nuances that were important to convey. I think it was mainly because we want to simplify the concepts so much that we miss out on important details, forgetting that there are many other factors that are connected and are just as important.

Any highlights from your internship program?

The Lean Launch Pad program meeting was certainly a highlight for me. I had just come aboard the genomics.entrepreneurship@UBC and was clueless as to what other projects there were and what they were doing. From attending one of the meetings, though it was the last one, I not only got a glimpse of what the program was doing but also how genomics is applied to different needs and situations.

Another highlight was the intern social lunch. It is always fun to see the other interns, talk about what they are doing, and just relax and have fun!

What other interests do you have aside from animations?

Aside from animations and illustrations, I love watching movies, reading comics, and playing video games. I enjoy anything with a good story! I also practice the martial art of kendo and role-play on online communities.

You can view more of Julia’s work at her online portfolio.

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