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Alyssa Burrows

Alyssa Burrows, MSc'23

I have always been interested in how small things, drugs, cell factors, and viruses modulate the human body and, specifically, the immune system. This curiosity led me to pursue a science degree. Recently, I graduated with an Honours Bachelor Health Sciences degree from McMaster’s astute Biology & Pharmacology Co-op Program with a minor in Biology and a concurrent education certificate in Immunology, Microbiology and Virology. I completed my co-op placements at AstraZeneca as Regulatory Affairs Associate and as a Research Assistant in Dr. Ellis’ lab at Queen’s University. Many of my undergraduate courses were delivered through a problem-based learning pedagogy which helped me develop a research interest concurrently with scientific reading, writing and communication skills. 

Nearing the end of undergrad, I was certain I wanted to further my scientific training by pursuing thesis-based graduate studies. Upon reflection, I determined that I enjoyed the self-directed inquiry, research, collaborating with peers, inter-disciplinary and experiential learning aspects of my undergraduate degree. The Translational Medicine (TMED) program fostered all the aspects I enjoyed during my undergraduate degree. 

I learned about the TMED program through the current Ph.D. candidate, Sophia Linton, who was doing her mini-masters in the Ellis lab while I was completing my co-op placement. Sophia spoke enthusiastically about the TMED program and how engaging the courses are, how supportive the program’s faculty and leadership are and how much she was enjoying her thesis. In talking with other TMED students, you will see that they share the same sentiments as Sophia. 

TMED is genuinely a graduate program like no other! The program is expertly designed in that the course complements your thesis project and encourages you to be an interdisciplinary and critical thinker. Through Medical Grand Rounds, observerships, and facilitated discussions with clinicians and patients, TMED students gain an appreciation for the value and importance of medical research and how it can impact people’s lives. TMED students also get the unique opportunity to attend observerships with Kingston Health Sciences Centre physicians and see evidence-based medicine in practice. Another aspect of the TMED program that I greatly appreciate is how practical the assignments are; your time is valued in TMED. Dr. Ormiston said on the first day of TMED 800 that “your thesis starts from Day 1 in TMED” and he was not joking as we proactively started working on background research for our review papers and preparing our Canadian Graduate Scholarship applications. 

Although I am only a few months into my MSc TMED journey, I am immensely proud of what I have accomplished so far: two publication submissions, scholarship applications, conference a presentation, and my committee meeting. I cannot emphasize enough how supportive and welcoming the upper-year TMED students and faculty have been. There have been several opportunities to get involved in the Queen’s and TMED community, including the TMED Student Council, of which I am the Society of Graduate and Professional Students and Equity Diversity and Inclusion representative. In the coming months, I am excited to continue to grow as a person and scientist and have the fantastic opportunity to explore the impacts of explore the impacts of T Helper Cell Type 2 skewing on COVID-19 antibody responses under the mentorship of Dr. Anne K. Ellis.

 Although I am still exploring career options post-TMED such as medicine, pharmacy and/or further graduate studies, I am confident that the TMED program will equip me with the crucial skills I need to succeed. 

If you are a curious individual who wants to explore the intersections of medicine and cutting-edge research, I highly encourage you to apply to the Queen’s TMED program, regardless of your academic background, as diverse perspectives are welcomed and valued.