in the Department
since her arrival as an
undergraduate student in
the Biochemistry program.
She joined the Guarné
lab as an MSc student
in 2008 and graduated
with her PhD in 2014
with many honours and
winning every award we
had to offer. She is off in
a few months to do her
postdoctoral fellowship in the US. I had the opportunity
to ask her a few questions about her tenure with us and
her future plans.
Tell me a little about your background and how you
decided to come to Dr. Guarné’s lab?
My interest in science began in high school when my science
teacher organized an experiment visualizing onion epidermal cells
under a microscope. I was amazed! Since then, I have pursued
an education in science. I was exposed to structural biology
techniques during my undergraduate studies and I knew I wanted
to learn more. I had the opportunity to explore my interest in X-ray
crystallography under the supervision of Dr. Guarné during my
fourth year undergraduate thesis project. Dr. Guarné focusses on
understanding genome maintenance and I took a keen interest in
her research project aimed at elucidating the regulation of DNA
Mismatch Repair. This conserved DNA repair pathway corrects
mistakes made during DNA replication and defects in this pathway
have been linked to both hereditary and sporadic cancers. I knew
from this experience that her teaching philosophy and scientific
interests were the perfect fit for me.
What has been good/enjoyable/satisfying for you in
your time with us?
Graduate school is a unique experience that fosters strong
friendships that last well beyond our time here. This has been one
of the most enjoyable aspects of my time at McMaster University.
It is also satisfying to reflect on my personal and professional
growth over the course of my degree. The learning environment
really allowed me to work on my presentation skills. This was
paramount because I am a nervous presenter. Graduate school
provides endless opportunities to work on our presentation skills.
Lab meetings, departmental seminars, and conferences were great
ways to train myself to keep my nerves under control so that I can
enjoy the experience of sharing my work.
What did we do well and what advice can you give us to
improve our graduate program?
The Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences is an
industrious and creative environment. I really benefitted from this
training program because it opens up doors for diverse career
opportunities. I benefitted tremendously from discussions with my
supervisor about my career goals. This allowed me to work towards
building a strong CV, customized for my career aspirations. I didn’t
realize how beneficial those ongoing discussions were until the last
few years of my degree.
I think students in the Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences
program would benefit from career development workshops.
Seminars by past biochemistry graduates will allow students to
explore an array of career opportunities and CV building workshops
for scientists would promote productive discussions. Organizing
a career development seminar series geared for biochemistry
students will emphasize the importance of career development and
help students begin their next stage.
How well do think your training and development needs
I think one of the best aspects of graduate school is the ability to
customize the training environment to fit the needs of each student.
The key for me was to identify my strengths and weaknesses. I tried
to tap into my skills and work on the aspects of graduate school
that made me uncomfortable (presenting and writing). Departmental
seminars, writing workshops, and a daily reading schedule all
helped with my professional development.
How did the seminar series help with your training?
Departmental seminars are one of the most enjoyable training
opportunities. I made a conscious effort to attend our weekly
seminars. Beyond the benefits of broadening my scientific
knowledge and getting fantastic ideas, seminars were an
opportunity to work on my own presentation skills. I tried to really
listen to the presenter and learn how they put together their story.
This continuous exercise helped when it came to making my own
Bonnie Murphy interviews and reports | Monica Pillon