I spent my time at MIRC completing a Master Degree in Dr. Ali Ashkar’s lab. I loved my experience during those years (which was not too long ago!) for several different reasons. I was working on a project that I was extremely passionate about – we were working to understand the impact of the tumor microenvironment on the phenotype and function of NK cells found within pyMT transgenic mice, as well as strategies that could shift the immune response towards tumor rejection. Cancer immunology was and still is such a rapidly evolving field, and I felt very excited and grateful to work in the area. I also had an amazing lab and supervisor; and I made many life-long friendships during my time at MIRC. Finally, looking back I realize how much I grew during my time there, from stimulating committee meetings, to presentations at WIP, to courses like Advanced Immunobiology, it was a challenging yet exciting time and I learned a lot!
As a member of the medical affairs team at a pharmaceutical company, I work closely with Scientific Experts to provide medical support and deliver educational initiatives with the ultimate goal of improving patient care. My current role is specifically as a Medical Education Associate. What that means is I work with experts on the development and implementation of educational programs for physicians that meet an unmet learning need. What excites me most about my role is constantly learning about cutting edge, scientific advances and at the same time being able to see how practically these advances change the way medicine is practiced today. It’s truly exciting to see a drug move from development, to approval, to guidelines, and ultimately to improving patient care.
During my time at MIRC, I thought a lot about what I wanted to pursue after I completed my degree. Ultimately, I decided that I did not want to stay in academia, and thought that experiencing what other industries had to offer was best for me. After completing my Master Degree, my next role was at a pharmaceutical agency. At the time, to be honest I did not truly understand what the role entailed, as my only scientific experience had been research based. It was an eye-opening experience to see what the pharmaceutical industry was all about, to read and get up-to-speed on the latest clinical trials for drugs in development or on the market, to understand how the drug approval process works in Canada, as well as the regulatory landscape. It was a steep learning curve. However, I learned a lot and what I found was that I was still very much involved with and learning about the latest scientific advances, which was important to me. From there, I looked to find a medical role within a pharmaceutical company, so I could continue this pursuit further. This led me to my current career today.
I use many of the skills that I developed at MIRC during my career today. From a scientific perspective, it was very important for me to learn about experimental design, how to analyze the scientific literature, write scientific papers, and present my own research. From a soft skills perspective, what grad school taught me that I did not learn about in a research paper or a textbook was the importance of being self-motivated and self-driven, as well as the ability to problem solve and work through difficult problems/situations. These skills are crucial for me in my role today.
It’s hard to choose a favourite memory from my time at MIRC – I have so many good ones! The biggest thing that stands out for me is the people I met and the life-long friends I made. We had lots of good times together, whether it was during the in-depth conversations or competitions we had at the lunch tables, the Holiday Party Potlucks, the early morning animal facility sessions or late night flow cytometry. It is the people I did these with that made the biggest impact. What’s awesome is that I am still close with many of these individuals today, and we often reminisce about our favourite memories at MIRC!
My biggest piece of advice, and it may sound cheesy, is you can do whatever you put your mind to as long as you have the drive and passion. It may sound funny, but there were many times I would hear comments like “it is really hard to find a job in x, y, z”, essentially judging the external environment without experiencing it. I would just say keep an open mind, and don’t get discouraged. If there is a career you want to explore, but think it’s a highly competitive space or a tough time to get in the industry, go for it. You will never know unless you try.