GRADUATE & LIFE SCIENCES EDUCATION

Sami Ul Haq, Pharmacology and Toxicology

My name is Sami and I am a second-year undergraduate student doing a specialist in biomedical toxicology at the department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Currently, I am working as a clinical research trainee at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health under the supervision of Dr. Bruna Brands.

Dr. Brands’ research focuses on the psychopharmacology of psychoactive substances; in other words, investigating the effects of drugs on mood, cognition, and behavior. Currently, her research focuses on studying the effects of cannabis on cognition in the context of driving behavior. My project focuses on examining differences in male and females in their cognitive response to illicit substances like cannabis. All in all, it is a very exciting field of research not just from a scientific standpoint, but it’s very relevant to public health policies especially in light of the upcoming legalization of cannabis in Canada.

I chose the Dept. of Pharmacology & Toxicology because drugs have always fascinated me. The concept of chemical substances that can bring about physiological changes in the body, whether good or bad, has intrigued me ever since high school. That is why I chose this department as it fosters my interest and has given me the chance to work with leading scientists like Dr. Brands, and conduct research and contribute to this fascinating field.

Finding this research opportunity however, was in no part easy. It was very challenging looking for potential supervisors especially because I wanted to get into a lab by the end of my first year. Much to my dismay, most scientists refused to take me on as a research student mainly because I was still in my first year. Generally, finding research opportunities is very difficult especially for undergrads and this problem is worsened by increasing cuts to funding which is making it difficult for faculty scientists to take on new students.

I started my research position last September and so far it has been a blast. Truly, it has been an amazing experience, learning about the cutting edge research done in the field of psychopharmacology. It is a very good social experience as well. Dr. Brands takes a hands-on approach and actively mentors aspiring researchers like myself. The graduate students in my lab are very friendly as well and foster learning by encouraging confused undergrads like me to ask questions. Also, our research team is relatively small and that in itself enables us to form meaningful connections and be more socially cohesive.

Although I am two years away from graduating (hopefully!), I am still deciding on what the future holds for me but for now I hope to become a clinician scientist.

Quote: Sleep is a luxury.

Advice: Get in to research as early as possible.