by Frances Lai (PhD candidate, Lichty lab)
Being a grad student at MIRC is definitely an enjoyable experience in a challenging environment. Because we are at McMaster, we have access to cutting edge research tools not only in our centre, but in other closely affiliated departments. A collaborative environment is fostered at MIRC where knowledge (and equipment) is encouraged to be shared freely. As a result of this philosophy of sharing, large amounts of equipment, ranging from basic necessities to state of the art, are easily accessible to every lab. This removes many restrictions that are often experienced due to lack of the appropriate apparatus and expands the range of research possibilities. This also creates a setting where as a grad student, if you would like to try a technique outside of your lab’s skill set, you have the ability to go across the hall or down to the other end of the open concept lab and ask a fellow trainee who has experience in that technique. Usually, if you want to try something new out, people in other laboratories are even willing to lend reagents along with their expertise. The MIRC faculty also are extremely friendly and helpful to all the trainees and consequently, good relationships can often form between faculty and students in different laboratories.
A weekly seminar, either given by a MIRC trainee or a visiting scientist from another institution, provides another learning opportunity to grad students. Though as a grad student, you are required to give a seminar only once a year, attending the seminars of other MIRC students keeps you up to date on what other labs are doing and you may learn that another lab has done a technique you are interested in trying. On the days that a speaker from an external institution is speaking, MIRC trainees have the opportunity to converse with the speaker over pizza, away from the eyes and ears of the faculty. This exposes trainees to research from other institutions within Canada and also from many different countries. We learn what things are similar or different at other institutions and how perse career paths can be. It is a wonderful experience that is not offered by many other departments.
Although people are quite devoted to their scientific work at MIRC, there are also fun times to be had during the year. The annual Christmas party brings people out of the woodwork and is an enjoyable day of perse food and decorations. A newer tradition of a summer picnic is another opportunity to have a relaxing day to chat and socialize with other members of the centre. Not only are these opportunities to get to know other trainees on a personal level, it can often cultivate new collaborations.
All in all, being a grad student at MIRC offers a world of opportunity that well prepares you for the world after grad school. It is a great experience that results in terrific scientific relationships and lifelong friendships.