Nadia Boachie, Institute of Medical Science
Department: Institute of Medical Science (MSc). Clinical Psychiatry. Collaborative Specialization in Neuroscience (CPIN), Collaborative Program in Addiction Studies (CoPAS). Entering my second year in September.
Research Title: Cannabis Withdrawal: A PET Study of Endocannabinoid metabolism
Supervisor: Dr. Isabelle Boileau
Description of your research:
Our lab is a research imaging lab with a focus on addiction as well as other disorders such as PTSD, mTBI and social anxiety disorder. My project specifically uses PET and MRI neuroimaging to look at the brains of chronic cannabis users after they have gone through short term and long term abstinence. We also take several biological samples and neuropsychological measurements to analyze changes throughout their abstinence period.
Why did you choose this department
My previous undergraduate education and research experience was neuroscience oriented. As an undergraduate I worked at the Montreal Neurological Institute looking at the effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) on decision making. This lab also focused on neuroimaging specifically fMRI. In my second undergraduate lab I looked at the effects of different immune cells on pain using animal models. I love neuroscience topics and wanted to continue my research career path studying the brain. Addictions research was the perfect fit.
How was your experience looking for a research opportunity
Looking for a research opportunity can be overwhelming. There are so many potential supervisors to choose form at U of T working at a number of different sites on campus or around the city. I found my supervisor by looking at U of T's various websites (CPIN, CoPAS etc.) and looking under the list of faculty members accepting students. I selected professors and doctors whose research I was interested in and read a few (3-4) papers they had published. After this I sent out personal emails to them with my objectives, research interests, CV and transcripts. Doing this, I quickly found a supervisor whose research interest me. I conducted a brief phone interview and decided whether or not their leadership style suited me. I met my current supervisor person to tour the lab and discussed potential projects before committing.
When did you start your research experience
I conducted research as an undergraduate since my second year. After graduating from McGill I moved from Montreal to Toronto when I was accepted into the IMS program. I took advantage of the extra months I had prior to my official master's start date and worked under my supervisor as student researcher at CAMH. I was able to work in my lab and get started on the administrative aspects of clinical research (REB applications) before the official start of my master's degree in September 2018.
Why did you choose this supervisor
I think it is of upmost importance to choose a supervisor whose research you enjoy. It is also important is to choose a supervisor who you know you will be able to communicate effectively with and clearly outline common goals before the start of your project. My supervisor is up front and strongly encourages everyone in the lab to branch out and truly immerse themselves in any research opportunity (conferences, collaborations) presented to them. Lastly the physical lab environment, as well as the location of the lab all played a role in my decision. For some, these later aspects are not as important but for me the environment I am in and the people I am surrounded by greatly effect my work performance. My supervisor was just about perfect and I am so glad I have the opportunity to work under her.
What’s your experience with research
So far so good. Research is great and being able to do things at your own pace has been nice. My biggest challenge and one that I did not foresee are the number of hurdles that come up in clinical research. There is a bit of wait time with every exchange with ethical boards and Health Canada unfortunately this is unavoidable. My research was slow to actually start because of all the training at set up (contracts etc) necessary for my project but having an encouraging supervisor and supportive lab mates made it easier.
How’s the social experience with research
In terms of social events, a graduate degree is what you make of it. You can decide to just do research and that's it. You can join clubs that interest you, go to events hosted by graduate departments or befriend your lab mates and spearhead some hang outs outside of the lab setting. My social experience has been good. I have been able to meet people in classes or at events hosted by departments (e.g. IMS). Summer is also the season for conferences. This summer I had the opportunity to go back to Montreal for a Canadian Psychopharmacological Society conference which was a great academic and social experience.
What are your future career plans:
After seeing the clinical aspects of research I have decided to apply to medical school. I am committed to research but would love to continue research as an MD.
Quote: "Failure is success if we learn from it." Malcolm Forbes
Tip: Make the most out of your master's experience. You are in charge of how your degree goes. Take advantage of the opportunities available to graduate students and see what you can get involved in at your research site as well as outside the lab! It takes adjustment to get the hang of things but soon you'll get your rhythm. (Also try not to eat out everyday, it gets expensive)