Completing my PhD in Biology at McMaster was an invaluable educational experience where I had a supervisor who mentored, guided, and trained me to be a good scientist. The teaching and coordinating experience I gained at McMaster through sessional instructing, TAing, and the BGSS society, as well as the applied nature of my PhD project led me to my current role where I was able to beat out 300 other candidates due to my experiences. Throughout my degree the program was supportive, and provided financial assistance for travel to international conferences where I was able to attain media coverage for my academic work. I am grateful for the transferable skills and support my PhD at McMaster provided.
When I started graduated studies at McMaster in 1994, unbeknownst to me at the time, it was the beginning of a new career trajectory into academia. I had just completed an undergraduate degree with 2-years of co-op work experience at the University of Waterloo. What I learned during my co-op jobs was that getting a graduate degree, such as a Masters, would be very beneficial to advancing my career prospects. However, once I started my graduate studies in the Biology department at McMaster University, and gained valuable experience as a teaching assistant, I quickly realized that my true vocation was academic research and teaching. Although I went on to several other academic institutions, I look back fondly on the graduate training that I received during my time at McMaster, and apply many of those acquired skills in my current role as an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
The McMaster graduate biology program provided me with five years of quality experiences in ecology in the field, in the lab, and in the classroom. The program helped prepare me for a career at the intersection of education, outreach, and research through the development of quantitative, presentation, and critical thinking skills. The strong professional network of Great Lakes researchers I built while at McMaster is helping me today in my career as a Fisheries Specialist with University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
My graduate studies at McMaster transformed my perspectives about research, teaching, and services at the University level. When I pursued my Master’s degree in Applied Microbiology, I had a deep interest to continue my formal education and strengthen my research and critical thinking skills- particularly in microbiology and molecular biology. This eventually brought me to a Ph.D. program in the Department of Biology at McMaster University. Here, I experienced the most transformative stage in my education history. I learned to recognize knowledge gaps, design and carry out experiments to test hypothesis, analyse data, and draw conclusions. These elements led me to be a successful scientist in the field. More than anything, I had the privilege of knowing individuals who have been strongly willing to support me personally and professionally.
During my graduate studies at McMaster I was surrounded by great scientists, such as Stan Bayley, Philip Branton and Frank Graham, all part of a large effort on DNA tumor viruses and my first realization of the efficiency of collaboration. My research on the adenovirus E1A oncoprotein lead me to postdoctoral studies on cell cycle regulation at the University of California, San Diego. A highlight was publishing on cyclin proteins with the Nobel Laurette who discovered these cell cycle regulators. After my post-doc I received a job offer from a Canadian University; however my wife convinced me to apply for a position in the pharmaceutical industry so she could continue at a local dot.com startup. My research experience at McMaster secured me a job at Canji, a San Diego gene therapy company using adenovirus gene delivery. I eventually joined the Infectious Diseases group at Merck & Co. and it has been an amazing experience working with a large group of colleagues to develop antivirals that improve the lives of people suffering from life-threatening diseases such as Hepatitis C. After many successes (and failures!) at Merck, I was thrilled recently to be the lead author on a groundbreaking Nature cover article (www.nature.com/articles/nature15542) that demonstrated RNA regulatory/structural elements can be targeted for pharmaceutical intervention. I now work in the Merck Vaccines group with a fellow McMaster Biology alum – Andy Bett (Ph.D.). We are proud to tell our colleagues that we studied at the same world-renowned Canadian university. I have many fond memories of my time in the Biology Department at McMaster where I also met my wife, who worked as a summer student, and is also a McMaster MBA (Marketing) grad!