Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 29, No.16

May 19, 2005

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Anna Woch: Two degrees at once


Vasilisa Shramchenko

Anna Woch
Photo by AJ Kelly

Anna Woch is about to graduate with a BA in film studies from Concordia. She is also finishing up a PhD in biomedical engineering at École Polytechnique de Montréal. And she wonders how exactly this makes her exceptional.

Woch was three years into her PhD research project, “developing a mathematical model that describes how the brain controls very fast, almost instinctive movements.”

Work had bogged down a bit. “It was an interesting project, but I had always wanted to study film, ever since I took a film course at College Bois du Boulogne. I had a crise de nerfs at 28. I was afraid that if I left it till I was over 30, I wouldn’t have the courage to realize this dream.”

Woch says she is lucky to have had supportive friends who encouraged her to go for it, expecting that she would abandon her PhD. Instead, she pursued both degrees.

She chose to study film at Concordia because of the reputation of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. “They say they have an artistic mission and a practical approach," a combination that was a great fit.

Was taking two degrees at once the right decision? Laughing a bit, she said, “Yes and no. Realizing my dream gives me so much happiness, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone. It was very difficult. I had a crazy schedule..”

Vaisseau-fantôme is Woch's final film project. “It is a poetic, experimental movie about memories and immigration, how the fact of always travelling or living somewhere other than where we spent our childhood turns memories into myths and dreams.

“Nothing in the place they are anchors these memories. They become more and more ethereal." The immigrant can find herself "wandering about like a ship which has no anchor." Woch herself came to Canada from Poland 16 years ago.

Science and the arts have separate and complementary aspects, she says. "I have the same curiosity, the need to explore and try new things. I like narrative movies, but end up making experimental ones.

“In science sometimes, I get too sentimental. Science is a different way of approaching the world than the arts; both use logic and intuition, but in different ways." A scientist must be as objective as possible, even if the subject under study is a passion.

The arts are more personal: “The more you put yourself into it, the better it is. If I don't succeed in science, I say there was a problem with my logic. It reflects only an aspect of what you are. If you fail at art, it questions everything you are."

For Woch, "art is much more scary than science." She plans to support herself working part-time in science; the rest of her energy she will devote to film.

-Beverly Akerman