If you’re an engineer working in either the private or public sector, there are pressures to anticipate every contingency of your design. But when what you’re designing has to be sent into space, the stakes skyrocket, so to speak. For Mechanical Engineering student Ryan Pitre, his MSc project is subject to this astonishing array of enabling constraints: contributing to original research, meeting real industry deadlines with a corporate partner, and engineering for an environment so extreme that your designs can’t count on a second chance.
After graduating in 2008 from McGill University with a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics, Erin Arthurs embarked on a promising career in healthcare research. During her undergraduate degree, she had been involved in research on health related quality of life and disease activity among patients with scleroderma (with supervisor Dr. Russell Steele). She went on to work at the McGill University Health Centre Research Institute in the Division of Clinical Epidemiology, and then the Jewish General Hospital’s Behavioural Health Research Group, while being a student member of the Canadian Scleroderma Research Group, under the supervision of Dr. Brett Thombs. She began to wonder, however, what she could accomplish with an MSc and the place where mathematics and health met, for Arthurs, was epidemiology.
What if a doctor handed you a sheet from her prescription pad that simply said “exercise”? What if the cure for many common diseases in North America were something as simple as a commitment to move our bodies and remain active?
One of the tasks of any researcher is to not just identify the elements of a given system or process, but to come up with an explanation for why they interact in the way they do. For Psychology PhD candidate Rachel Wayne, a major step in her growth as a researcher came when she began to theorize the experience of graduate education itself. Specifically, Wayne, who is hard of hearing, started to think about the social dynamics of doing research about hearing, cognition, and communication and the fact that disability advocacy “wasn’t necessarily easy to do within research itself.” What she came up with was an idea worth spreading, so, after exploring some of her thoughts in a series of blogs for the science website PLOS (The Public Library of Science), she pitched it to the upcoming Queen’s TEDx panel.
There is never a straight path for those delving into PhD research. You might start off with a certain idea or project in mind but end up with something quite different.
That’s exactly what happened with Matthew Rätsep, a third year PhD candidate in the Pharmacology and Toxicology program, now part of the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences (DBMS) at Queen’s University.
When Economics PhD candidate Michael Kottelenberg was researching his award-winning paper, public use data wasn’t enough to answer his question—namely, when a $5-a-day daycare program was implemented in Québec, what happened to families that used it? He and co-author (also his supervisor) Dr. Steven Lehrer had to leave all forms of electronic communication or recording—even iPods—behind and go into the highly secure Queen’s Data Research Centre (QRDC).
RetreatWriting six hours a day for five consecutive days is not for the faint of heart. Resisting the internet and the urge for friendly social media chats during writing time is an equal task. But 16 Masters and 38 PhD students were up for the challenge during the School of Graduate Studies’ (SGS) most recent Dissertation Boot Camp. Armed with laptops, iPods, water bottles, and completed research, they gathered in the Douglas Library Reading Room to set up camp.
Ryan Plener is on track to earn both a Masters of Industrial Relations and a Juris Doctor in only the time it typically takes to earn the latter—and to do so, he spent a summer semester working all day every day on a suite of international business law courses at Queen’s Herstmonceux castle (UK).
Jeff MacCormack, a PhD student in the Faculty of Education, asserts that unhappiness or stilted ambitions were not the reasons for his life altering career move. After nine years working as a certified teacher he continued to love his work. He knew teaching was the career for him, only that the job he held could not answer some long lingering questions plaguing his mind.