Aleksei Shkurin, Molecular Genetics
Department - Molecular Genetics
Research Title - "A two-tier system for modeling basal CPA sites and identifying CPA regulators."
Supervisor - Timothy R. Hughes
Description of your research - I am using machine learning/feature engineering to identify potential regulators of human cleavage and polyadenylation. The computational framework I designed has proven to be successful at dissecting the contributions of individual sequence features to CPA site discrimination, which allows us to study potential additional features through statistical analysis. My project is an example of an intersection between medical science and computational science, focusing on biological interpretability in computational biology.
Why did you choose this department - Having a background in machine learning, I was looking for a place where I can improve my computational skills, work with real data, and have a potential to make a significant impact. Molecular Genetics is one of the scientific fields where vast amounts of data are available, many open questions exist, and the result of one's work have the potential for direct applications in medicine.
How was your experience looking for a research opportunity - For me, as an international student, the most important stage was finding a PI who is interested in sponsoring me.
When did you start your research experience - During my undergraduate studies (it was in a small university in the middle of Finland), I took every opportunity to participate in research projects, which helped me shape my CV, and eventually got me accepted to U of T.
Why did you choose this supervisor - Choosing the right supervisor is one of the crucial steps when entering academia as a graduate student. I am glad the MoGen department has a rotation system, which requires every student to spend the first semester of grad school working in 3 different labs. This experience helps students to see potential options and make a confident decision on where they want to continue their research.
What’s your experience with research - I am enjoying the work I am doing. Although research is unpredictable, and the success of your work is sometimes affected by random factors, finding a healthy community and a supportive supervisor is the key to a positive experience and continuous learning.
How’s the social experience with research - MoGen department is a friendly and supportive community. Our graduate students associations do a great job at providing students (including international students) with events and opportunities that help them maintain a balanced lifestyle, which in turn significantly improves the overall student experience.
What are your future career plans - I am open to opportunities. Being a computational student, I don't feel as stressed about my future as some purely experimental students sometimes are, so I would advise everyone to take at least basic computational courses.
Quote - Find a balance that works for you, and make every minute count.
Tip - Keep track of events with free pizza!