After completing their undergrad programs, many students opt for grad studies to improve their career prospects.
Queen’s University grad programs are designed to equip students with the theoretical and applied knowledge they need in the workplace. With the support of their academic supervisors and peers, grad students sharpen their skills and delve deeper than ever before into their chosen subject of study.
TalentEgg connected with four successful graduate alumni from Queen’s University who all agree that their graduate program experiences played a huge role in their career success.
As an undergrad, Melanie Hall aspired to become a professional scientist. After completing her Bachelor’s degree at Queen’s University, she knew she would need further education to achieve her goal, so she enrolled in the Astrophysics program and began working towards her Master’s Degree.
Melanie had always enjoyed research, so her program was a great fit for her. She loved data analysis and travelling to different observatories. Each day, she worked closely with her professors and peers to further her academic knowledge of this field. However, as she continued her studies, she discovered a new aspect that she wanted to integrate into her career.
“During my grad studies, I worked in the Queen’s University observatory, and I ran the programming there for 2 years,” she says. “We had schools in for field trips, public evenings… it was fantastic. It really gave me the spark to pursue this new career opportunity.”
“Grad school is different from your undergrad because you have more freedom in your day- to-day. Be sure to try new things, such as professional development workshops and extracurriculars!”Melanie Hall, Alumni, Queen’s University School of Graduate Studies
Melanie’s newfound passion for working with the public inspired her to move off the beaten path. After completing her Master’s Degree, she was hired for a position at the TELUS Spark science centre in Calgary. In her new role, she oversees public programs and workshops for both children and adults, and manages a creative team developing opportunities for visitors to engage with science content.
“I was looking for a new challenge,” says Melanie. “I was ready to get some creative control and I was ready to manage a team.”
Transitioning into the managerial role was a challenge at first, since there was a lot to learn about the organization and their procedures. However, Melanie’s practical experiences working at Queen’s University’s observatory provided her with the skills she needed to land the job she wanted.
“In grad school, your relationship with your peers and professors is much richer compared to your undergrad experience,” says Melanie. “They offer career advice and they know you individually – and that’s a huge benefit.”
Melanie is excited about what the future has to bring. The guidance and exposure she received at Queen’s University helped her find a field she is truly passionate about. “It’s so exciting to be a part of it!” says Melanie.
During her undergrad, Carolina Venditti had the opportunity to work with a supervisor on a research project. That experience motivated her to pursue a graduate research program at Queen’s University in Biomedical and Molecular Sciences.
“I had a fourth year class where professors came in to talk about their research,” says Carolina. “I was interested to see how different projects came together from a molecular point of view all the way to a clinical point of view.”
In her program, Carolina did translational research ranging from molecular and animal experiments to clinical studies. She learned many different study methodologies and was given the opportunity by her supervisor to present her research at conferences and write her own publications.
These experiences all contributed to Carolina’s career success after graduation. After she completed her degree, she landed an amazing job as a Scientific and Regulatory Consultant for Intertek’s Scientific and Regulatory Consultancy. Her day-to-day work involves critically evaluating research on new food–health associations, and identifying whether the research can substantiate novel health claims for her clients.
“I love that I’m putting my research background and critical thinking skills to work in a new area,” says Carolina. “It’s a role that’s exciting and always changing. There’s always new studies and work to be done.”
One of the best parts of Carolina’s grad school experience was how it opened up her career options. Before her research-study program, she thought she would end up becoming a nurse or a medical doctor. But through working with the faculty, she discovered she had a wide variety of careers to choose from – some she didn’t even know existed!
“When I first enrolled in grad studies, I thought the department name was the most important part. In fact, the research and how well you get along with your supervisor is the most important – it’s a huge factor in your research project experience.”Carolina Venditti, Queen’s University SGS Alumna
“When you get a PhD, it opens doors for you,” says Carolina. “I’m happy because my program gave me a broad academic background and helped me apply it to a unique role… the knowledge and expertise I gained from this program helped me get this job.”
As a Health Science major, Maaike Hum developed a keen interest in clinical trials. Once she completed her degree, she knew she wanted to take her education to the next level, so she began working towards her Master’s Degree in Pharmacology and Toxicology at Queen’s University.
“At Queen’s, I primarily worked in the pre-clinical area of my field,” says Maaike. “I had to do protocol development and project management and I was given a lot of independence… I was fortunate to have a supervisor that let me take ideas and run with them.”
This independent work played a huge factor in Maaike’s professional development and her later career success. After graduating, she secured an exciting position as a Study Coordinator at the Canadian Cancer Trials Group in Kingston. In her role, she helps facilitate the day-to-day management of their clinical trials. Her extensive academic knowledge in the field made her a perfect fit for the role, and she’s thrilled for what this opportunity will bring her down the road.
“I’m grateful to have found something that’s such a good fit for me,” says Maaike. “I think it’s really exciting to be bringing new options to cancer patients. There’s so much going on in terms of new drug development… hopefully they can help patients extend their lives or improve their quality of life.”
Maaike says that her studies at Queen’s gave her the ability to disseminate knowledge – a skill that has proven incredibly useful in her line of work. Her ability to communicate in-depth lab research to clients and co-workers has made her even more valuable as a clinical research professional.
“Not everyone I work with has the same background as me, so being able to explain concepts and ask the right questions is very important,” she says.
Now that graduate school is behind her, Maaike is glad she picked a field of research she was passionate about. She encourages new grad students to do the same, and to enjoy their time at Queen’s.
“I think I was lucky because I was able to study at Queen’s,” she says. “There’s a good work atmosphere and I was very fortunate to be working with people who I now consider friends.”
Like many new graduates, Wei Cui was looking for a challenge. After completing her undergraduate degree in China in Chemical Engineering, she decided she wanted to take her academic studies to the next level.
After researching a number of universities, Wei decided to enroll in the Chemical Engineering program at Queen’s University. Since she had a great aptitude for math and models, she felt it was a great fit and was excited to tackle her thesis.
“As an undergrad, I felt like I needed more education and time to mature as a professional,” says Wei. “My studies at Queen’s helped me improve my skills and knowledge before settling down in an industry job.”
Wei’s thesis project was in conjunction with a company in the chemical engineering industry. Her work consisted of building complex mathematical models, solving problems, and predicting results. While it was a lot of hard work, Wei says her studies were always challenging and exciting.
“I loved how it was directly related to my industry,” says Wei. “It wasn’t just a lab where students collected data – you could see the results of your work.”
Today, Wei holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering. She currently works as a Process Control Engineer at Shell, where she helps to maintain the refinery processes for petroleum-based products. Her day-to-day role consists of troubleshooting daily issues with her team – a skill she developed considerably during her time in grad school.
“My favourite part about my new job is it’s really cool and exciting,” says Wei. “We’re facing real issues every day… we’ll take action and implement solutions and at the end of the day, I feel a sense of achievement.”
Wei’s advanced engineering experience at Queen’s University played a huge role in her career success. Her knowledge has been a huge asset to her team and she’s eager to see what the future will bring.
“Everything I learned at school is helping me in the real world,” says Wei. “Now I’m part of a big family and a great community!”