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  • The Mentorship Spot

Interested in Research? Consider UofT

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Manasi Patel

Manasi Patel is a third-year student at the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus. She’s in the molecular biology specialist program. Manasi loves to read, write, and talk! When she’s not watching hockey, she’s talking about it (just a little bit obsessed, haha)! Go Leafs Go!

1. Why did you choose UofT Life Sci?

In my opinion, UofT is very research-oriented and I like that because I want to get into more research. I had a few friends who were also in the life sciences program at UofT and I heard good things from them including about the professors. I’ve heard that it’s hard in some sets, but when I researched the program I thought it was a really good program. There was another factor which was being able to stay at home and commute to school. I was debating on whether I wanted to be away from home or not, so this was a good option if I decided to stay home in the end.

2. Why did you choose to do a major in the molecular biology specialist program?

I chose this program because I really enjoyed my second-year molecular biology class. I love learning about the details of processes that occur in our body, and I thought this program was the perfect balance between biology and chemistry without being too chemistry heavy (whereas programs like biochemistry are).

3. Are you currently doing a research practicum or looking into doing one? Do you have any tips to share for getting started?

UofT offers research opportunity courses. I applied and got accepted to do one with a psychology professor, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson. She studies speech perception in children aged 4.5 months to 8 years. I’ve always been interested in psychology, so it is interesting for me to learn about how clinical research is performed. I have a personal study with her lab and I also help run other ones that are ongoing at the lab. I recommend looking into what type of research the professors at your university are doing and don’t be afraid to email them to ask questions. You might be able to arrange an in-person meeting with them to discuss their research as well. You can also talk to your professors after class or during office hours.

4. What are your goals after undergraduate studies and how is your program helping you achieve those goals?

Right now, one of my goals is to get into medical school. Being in molecular biology and doing life sciences in general, I’ve noticed that a lot of the courses that I’m taking are either prerequisites for medical school or they help you on the MCAT. A lot of the content is overlapped, so when you’re studying for it it’s like you’re reviewing because of your program. Another option for me is going into research and doing my masters in one of the increasing areas of biology, which there are so many of such as biotechnology or genetics, that is always growing.

5. What has been one of your favourite experiences at UofT Mississauga?

My favourite experiences include meeting new people in my classes and labs. I’ve made a lot of great friends who motivate me to study as well as have fun! I also started a club this year with my friend for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (UTM Chapter). We enjoy meeting with the execs to talk about events to help fundraise for the charity. One of the events we went to as a club was “Light the Night” which is a walk for cancer patients.

6. What has been one of the hardest experiences at UofT Mississauga?

One of the hardest experiences I’ve had was due to first year calculus. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with math. I did really well on our first calculus midterm so it gave me a confidence boost. However, the second midterm didn’t go so well. It was extremely disappointing because I had worked really hard and truly felt that I understood all the concepts. However, since the tests were only out of 30 marks, the smallest mistakes made a huge difference. I felt really down for a while thinking I wasn’t capable of doing well. Then, I decided to leave behind the negative thought process and focus on the next midterm. I worked really hard and gave myself mini pep talks instead of bringing myself down due to the second midterm. It ended up working because I did even better on the third midterm than the first one. I highly recommend thinking positive no matter what. Don’t focus on the past, look into the future and move forward.

7. How do you balance school and student life?

It’s hard in first year especially, and I remember having no life in first year because my schedule was like that too. I still think there’s not a lot of time now, but it’s about finding the little things that take up your time, such as social media. If you can try to limit yourself on social media, then you can use that time to do other activities that you still enjoy. I still do a lot of volunteering, extracurriculars, and I’m also a part of school clubs. It’s about finding those little slots in your schedule when you have breaks. So instead of just sitting and doing nothing (I do that sometimes too), put yourself out there a little and I believe you can balance it that way.

8. Is there any other advice you would give high school students about your program?

Building good study habits, especially in high school, is very important because I think in high school sometimes it’s easy to get away with doing things the “easier” way. For example, not studying as hard as you need to but still getting the marks that you want, and then you think it’ll be okay to continue that study habit afterwards. I think that university is a completely different playing field because there are different ways you have to study. There is a lot more content and you go from having a test on one chapter or a few sections in high school to having a test on four chapters in university. Remember that you don’t essentially need to study for 24 hours a day, rather study a bit smarter, find the resources, and cater them towards each course. One tip I’ve learned is that in some courses you don’t need to read every single chapter, but for other courses you do. It’s understanding what the professor wants from you and studying that way, so essentially, you’re not studying the same way for every course. In high school most of it was textbook-oriented, but in university there are some professors who are more lecture-oriented, so just learning that is like a new skill you have to develop in university.

Interviewed by Amanda Chang

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