Biology Graduate Student Ambassador Student Profiles

As current Biology Graduate Students, we invite prospective students to communicate with them regarding graduate studies in Biology!

From left to right:

Himeshi Samarasinghe – 2nd year PhD Student – Dr. JP Xu’s Lab

George Long – 1st year MSc Student – Dr. Brian Golding’s Lab

Rachel Andrews – 2nd MSc student – Dr. Roger Jacobs Lab

Himeshi Samarasinghe

Name: Himeshi Samarasinghe

Current Program: 2nd Year PhD in Biology

Lab: Xu Lab (LSB 402)

Area of specialization: Microbiology and fungal biology

Location of Undergraduate/(Master) Degree Studies: McMaster University

Your reason for choosing Biology at McMaster?
During my undergraduate studies at McMaster University, I became aware of the diverse array of biological research being conducted at McMaster. As I was mostly interested in medically-relevant microbial research, I decided to join the only lab here at Biology that studies fungal pathogens.

Benefits of being a graduate student?
It’s a great and a very enriching experience where you get to further your interest and skills in research and effective communication. You get to meet academics from other fields of research which is refreshing and can help you think about your own work from different perspectives. You also get to contribute to undergraduates’ learning by being a teaching assistant, which I find to be enjoyable and rewarding.

Skills that you are learning?
I attend several seminars/conferences a year where I present my research either through a poster or an oral presentation. These have helped me improve my communication skills, both oral and written. Being a graduate student in a lab means you are an integral part of a group of researchers that often collaborate and support each other’s work. You can also get involved in student life activities and become part a team that work to create social and academic events for the biology graduate students.

George Long

Name: George Long

Current Program: 1st year MSc in Biology

Lab: Dr. Brian Golding

Area of Specialization: Bioinformatics

Location of Undergraduate/Master Degree Studies: University of Ottawa

Your reason for choosing Biology at McMaster?

The project proposed to me was the most interesting that I’d seen.  Everyone that I had met had only good things to say about McMaster and were happy to be here.

Benefits of being a graduate student?

* Get to do research on topics that interest you

* Exposed to new areas of research by the departmental seminars

* Better career prospects after graduation


Skills that you are learning


* Leadership and teaching through TA positions

* Public speaking through lab meetings

* Critical thinking through departmental seminars and reading the latest research

* Problem solving through the research that we perform

Rachel Andrews

Name: Rachel Andrews

Current program: 2nd year –  MSc in Biology

Lab: Dr. Roger Jacobs

Area of Specialization: Drosophila genetics and development

Location of Undergraduate studies: University of Windsor

Your reasons for choosing Biology at McMaster:

The Biology program at McMaster is much larger than the program at the University of Windsor. This has provided additional funding opportunities that simply aren’t available in a smaller program. By alleviating much of the financial strain associated with full time schooling, these funding opportunities make it easier to pursue research-based graduate studies. There is an emphasis on research at McMaster, which creates a more productive environment, with investments in cutting edge technology that is available for use by graduate students. There are also opportunities at McMaster to act as a teaching assistant in courses that are relevant to my field of study, and my own interests. This is something that is only possible in a program with diverse undergraduate course offerings.

Benefits of being a graduate student?

Graduate studies are much more hands-on than undergraduate programs. A focus on research and teaching assistantships allows for experiential learning, rather than learning driven by tests and rote memorization. I am able to work in close contact with my supervisor to learn techniques that can then be used to design my own experiments. My research is self-directed, which offers me a great deal of flexibility.

Skills that you are learning:

As a graduate student, I have been able to work with many other researchers, both within my own lab and from other fields of research. This collaborative approach has provided me with the opportunity to develop my ability to work both independently and in a team (or “and as a member of a team”).  The self-directed aspects of my work have allowed me to develop problem solving and time management skills. In addition to skills relating directly to research, grad school also provides opportunities to develop mentoring and teaching skills. These skills are used both formally as a teaching assistant and informally when instructing undergraduate researchers and new lab members in my own lab.