GradLife Team 2017-2018

GradLife Bloggers

Fannie Dionne 


Joyeuse historienne montréalaise mère de deux jeunes garçons (et étant de ce fait abonnée au café).

J’ai entrepris un doctorat sur les relations entre Jésuites et autochtones en Nouvelle-France au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles à partir de dictionnaires manuscrits.

Avant d’étudier en histoire à McGill, j’ai fais une maîtrise en Littérature de langue française, un bac en Études classiques et un programme court en communication.

J’aime le monde académique, enseigner, faire de la recherche… mais aussi le monde fou des médias sociaux. J’essaie de concilier ces passions de mon mieux!

Mon mantra: tout est une phase.

Fannie is also a GradLife McGill Instagrammer and blogger team lead

Luis Angel Villegas ArmentaLuis pic

Born and raised in the north-center of Mexico. Constantly moving from one place to another since childhood, so it is complicated to say I belong somewhere, but I really love Canada!  Passionate about researching everything from “Photoelectron Spectroscopy” to “Why I can’t touch my elbow with my tongue?”. Science fiction lover, food enthusiast (eating it not cooking!), casual sports player and video games geek. I always look for new experiences and challenges. Writing is my secret love and this opportunity as GradLife blogger is the first stone to build my
writer dream.

Laura Jones
Laura JonesProgram/Research Interests: I’m a PhD candidate in Biochemistry here at McGill. My research focuses on the Jak/Stat pathway and its involvement in breast cancer, metastasis and immune surveillance using novel mouse models.

Hometown: A native of Oshawa, ON, I completed my BSc at the University of Ottawa and moved to Montreal 5 years ago. Even now I find there are still corners of the city I have yet to explore.

About me: Outside the lab, I spend my time volunteering as a Girl Guide leader, just celebrated 10 years a leader, and I love the outdoors. When winter drives me indoors you’ll usually find me with my nose in a book. I read any fiction I can get my hands on.

With my long standing love of literature, I am now trying my hand at writing. My post will be mainly about my life in the lab and adventures around Montreal. I look forward to sharing them with you!

Alex EnescuAlex

Research: I work on the relationship between dreams, psychosis, delusions and hallucinatory disorders; or, better said, I’m investigating the common pathways, or internal architectural structures, shared by these conditions.

Hometown: I grew up in Montréal: regularly commuting between NDG, The West-Island and Westmount.

Affiliation: Graduate student in the Psychiatry Department — Faculty of Medicine.

Other Affiliations: VP Executive — Graduate Student Association of Psychiatry (GSAP)

Hobbies: eat. sleep. thesis. repeat.

Main blogging topics: The world of dreams, sleep, diets, and mental health.

Something to muse on: “Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunnt-rovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk”.

Alice DamianoAlice

Program: I am a PhD student in Renewable Resources, and a fellow of the Economics for the Anthropocene project (check out our blog at! 😊).

Research Interests: I am doing research on the human-Earth relationships, and in particular I am interested in the reasons of our behavior towards the environment, the idea of homo oeconomicus, climate change and natural catastrophes. Interdisciplinarity is one of my favourite keywords, indeed my background encompasses Environmental Studies, Social Sciences, Information Technology and Humanities, and I have put my soul in all of them over the years, letting these disciplines change and enrich my way of thinking.

In alphabetical order…

I am: Emotional, Italian, marching at the rhythm of a different drum.

I did: Attend a scout group, grow up in a village named Pinasca, play in a theatre company.

I do: Collect pens and pencils every time I visit a new place, overthink, write poems in Italian and English.

I try to be: Bearable, open-minded, respectful.

I wish to say: Have a nice day, Nice to meet you, Peace & Love.

Lotte SkovmandLotte

Program/Research Interests: I am a PhD student in the NEO/BESS Program, which is a multidisciplinary program focusing on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and sustainability in the tropical environment. Currently, I study the gut microbiome of howler monkeys in Argentina. No kidding, I spend all day in the jungle watching monkeys poop through my fancy binoculars… My thesis is certainly its own kind of adventure!

Hometown: I spent my childhood in Denmark, but lived in the United States over nine years before starting graduate school in Montreal. I’m not quite sure where home is for me, but I think a part of me always belongs to Denmark.

About me: I have a big passion for traveling, animals, and being out in nature (duh!). However, when I am not hiking through the forest, I like to draw, cook, and play the violin. I am also pretty wicked at coming up with random Scrabble words.

I am excited to share my crazy graduate adventure with all of you through the McGill GradLife community!

Sophie CousineauSophie

Hometown: I was born and raised in Ottawa, where I completed my B.Sc. at the University of Ottawa. During my undergraduate years, I had the opportunity to work in research labs that studied viruses or used them as research tools, and I quickly realized that viruses are fascinating. These minuscule pathogens are able to take over the molecular machinery of cells and repurpose it to make more viruses – how cool is that?!

Program/Research Interests: I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology and Immunology department, where I am working to figure out how the hepatitis C virus interacts with specific cellular RNA-binding proteins.

About me: Outside of the lab, I often spend my free time running up Mont Royal, reading for fun in cafés, or knitting while watching something on Netflix. I am always looking for new experiences or challenges!

Meet bloggers from previous years

GradLife Instagrammers

Yogita Patel Yogita

Program: Ph.D. Candidate in Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine

Research Interests: I do basic research on proteins called molecular chaperones – Hsp70 and Hsp110 – that help other proteins fold into functional units, untangle misfolded proteins or send them for degradation. One of my aims is to understand how novel, small molecule inhibitors of Hsp70 work so we can use them as tools for research and potentially treat diseases like cancer.

Hometown: Born and raised in Montreal

About me: Outside of the lab, I like reading, running, hiking, spending time with family and friends, drinking ridiculous amounts of masala chai and doodling with henna @mehndipetals. I also enjoy taking up challenges and stepping out of my comfort-zone. For example, I have been a co-host for a Montreal South Asian wedding show for the last two years.

This is my second year as part of the GradLife team. I’m returning as an Instagrammer and I aim to capture my final year of grad studies through photos and short videos (or Boomerangs!). I’m also excited to be contributing to the blog, where I’ll be describing my experiences and reflections as a teaching assistant for the undergraduate Biochemistry teaching lab.

Yogita is also a GradLife McGill blogger and Coordinator

Christina Katsari


Hometown: Athens, Greece

Current status: Newbie at McGill, I am starting my PhD in Mining and Materials Engineering Department.

Hobbies: I’m passionate about dance. I have tried many styles and since 2014 I am a licensed Zumba® Fitness Instructor. What I love most about Zumba® is that it is like a party, you don’t realize you are working out, you always have a big smile on your face. Also, I like reading novels that make my mind travel and cooking for my favorite people.

As it is my first year in Montreal, I will be sharing my experience of exploring this city through my Instagram posts with you!

 My inspirational motto: “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

Christina is also an Instagrammer team lead

Saima AhmedVersion 2

Program: MSc, Experimental Medicine

Research Interest: I am interested in the role of patient-centered care within the field of medicine.  My research is focused specifically on patient empowerment and satisfaction throughout their health care journey. I am the coordinator of a study that aims to examine the impact of eHealth and mobile health tools from the perspective of both health care providers and patients.

Hometown: Montreal, Canada

About me: I have a BSc in Exercise Science with a specialization in Clinical Exercise Physiology from Concordia University. In my last year as an undergrad, I worked as a teaching assistant. I took some time off before going to graduate school, working in a clinical hospital setting and that is where I gained an a interest in patient experience.

In my free time, I do free-lance photography. I think the power of a good photo is truly incredible, it can repeatedly connect, resonate and stay with an individual. The reason I love photography is the feeling of pure excitement and pleasure it gives me.

I try my best to keep an active lifestyle by participating in yoga, Pilates and jogging. My other interests include fashion, art, movies, music, food, travel and comedy, yes comedy! I can regularly be seen catching various comedy shows across the city, whether it be improv, stand-up or sketch.

Saima is also a GradLife Coordinator

Melissa Enns

Melissa Enns picHi! I am a first year MA student in Second Language Education. Unsuprisingly, I love everything about language, from morphology, phonology, and syntax to sociolinguistics and teaching. My love of language learning led me to major in linguistics and Spanish in my undergraduate studies, and I soon discovered that I also have a passion for teaching. After graduating, I spent two years teaching ESL and conversational Spanish in a high school in Regina, and my interests further extended to curriculum design. Now my passion for continuned growth has brought me to McGill, where I plan to improve my French, start learning Mandarin (hopefully), and gain knowledge to help with my career goals of designing language curricula and/or doing language school startups.

Some other tidbits about me: I’m a prairie girl from rural Saskatchewan. Glorious sunsets and grain waving in the wind run deep in my veins, and, yes, I do wear bunnyhugs. I love adventure and would say I’ve been on a few. I’ve lived in three cities, travelled in five countries (Canada absolutely counts!), and am always looking for my next opportunity to travel. I don’t just enjoy the “big” events, though; I love to find adventure in day-to-day life as well. It’s there in things like training for a half marathon or exploring a new neighbourhood or stopping to appreciate a bit of colour, or a leaf, or some music. I even get a thrill from crocheting and creating things. There is always something to be joyful about, and I look forward to sharing some of those things with you!

Sam LeeSam pic

Program: PhD, Biochemistry

Research Interests: I work on proteins called chaperones and co-chaperones, mainly DNAJB1. The network of chaperones maintains the protein balance in the cells, which is critical for the survival of the cell. I hope to elucidate the specific role of DNAJB1 in this chaperone network.

About me: I am an international student from South Korea. Before coming to Montreal, I use to live in Toronto. I love reading, eating, chatting, listening to the music, and traveling. And I love to take pictures of what I do and what I see. I enjoy sharing my photos on Instagram and I am excited to share my life as a grad student at McGill through GradLife. My personal Instagram accounts are: @kipunsam.daily @spring_of_joy

Dominic XavierDominic Xavier

Program: Bonjour! I am Dominic, a second year MBA student at McGill University, Desautels Faculty of Management.

About me: A mechanical engineer at heart, I worked for the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, building some cool toys for them, including a nuclear sub. I play all kinds of sport but not the best in any. I have special inclination towards strategy games such as chess. I grew up in India and have travelled the length and breadth of the flavour rich nation. An extrovert and a Leo at heart, I am passionate about public speaking and was active in Toastmasters International. I enjoy driving cars and will any day be up for a road trip with a nice group.

I want to fly, I want to run , I even want to fall, but I just don’t want to stop. Someone who dint know the A,B,C of cooking, I am really passionate about cooking now and enjoy spending quality time with friends over dinner. I am excited to keep exploring Montreal and Canada this year – always on the hunt to find some artistic murals, meet new people and make new friends, or visit the must visit places of this beautiful country – and to share my graduate experience with the GradLife McGill community. Canada and McGill never cease to amaze me and being a McGill MBA ambassador, I am always happy to help.

Xingyu (Gabriella) PengGabriella

Program/Research: I am a Master’s student student in Bioresource Engineering, and my research interests focus on integrated system dynamic modelling and model calibration testing.

Hometown: I’m originally from China, I completed my BSc at Dalhousie University and I have moved to Montreal a few months ago. Taking my time to enjoy this amazing new city, and missing the quietness of Halifax.

About me: I have a huge love of travel and food as I believe that both encapsulate what it means to be from wherever you are from, I have always explored some stunning travel photo during my journey. As a graduate student, hitting the gym is the best way for me to release stress, my idea of the perfect day would start with a spinning class at the gym and finish off by a nice supper. I would love to meet new friends with the same passion and share the multicultural background.

Kaitlin Winter


Program: PhD Student in Microbiology and Immunology

Years at McGill: 5.5 (I did my undergrad at McGill)

Research Interests: I am currently working in a vaccine development lab at the Glen Site. I am developing a vaccine for Clostridium difficile.

Home Town: Metcalfe, Ontario (near Ottawa)

Fun habit: I am a total news hound and am constantly sending my friends articles.

Snapchat habits: 80% of my snapchats are of my cockatiel Roscoe or boardgames.

Volunteering: I am a Guider with Girl Guides of Canada. I work in a unit with 12-14 year olds.

Go to Party Trick: I can touch my nose with my tongue.

Favourite Season: All of them. I love the smells of Spring and Fall, camping in the Summer and snow in the Winter.

Kristin DavisKristin

Program/Research Interests: I’m currently a Master’s candidate in Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University. I’ve always found viruses very intriguing because of their ability to evade human defences so naturally I found myself studying the human immunodeficiency virus, a.k.a. HIV, the causative agent of AIDS. More specifically I study the ability of the virus to remain latent and hidden from the immune system.

Hometown: I’m originally from Mississauga, ON and did my undergrad in Biochemistry at the the University of Guelph, but decided to switch provinces for my Master’s.

About me: Outside of school my passions include yoga, running, and painting, which is where you will find me when I’m not hauled up in the lab! I’ve fallen head over heels for this beautiful city, from the never ending festivals to the artistic vibe the city holds, and I’m excited to spend the next two years of my life here. I have an ever-growing “Montreal Bucket List” and I can’t wait to share my Montreal and Grad school experience with you, every step of the way!

Roxane JaffrayROxane

Program: M.Sc. in Renewable Resources, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Research Interests: I do fundamental research on silicon (Si) dynamics in hardwood and conifer trees in temperate forests with a focus on lignin and tannin metabolism. Si is present practically everywhere in natural systems (i.e. ROCKS) and is shown to provide physical and biological advantages to plants. One of my aims is to understand the role of Si nutrition amongst a diverse forest, for example key forest players – sugar maple and american beech – can accumulate large amounts of Si so we can use this knowledge in further research regarding climate change adaptation strategies.
Hometown: Born in Gatineau, raised in Virginia, and now here!

About me: I love being able to work outdoors for my thesis, minus the mosquitoes and black flies, sampling in the forest is really a perk! Before McGill, I lived in downtown Toronto where I got to explore and simutaneously complete my bachelors at UofT in environmental sciences and genetics/biotech.  And before Toronto I was a little further south in the US.

Outside of the lab I’ve recently started to play softball over the summer, which has now transitioned into a rugby team with some grad students at Mac campus. (shameless plug- grads on mac contact me!). Otherwise, I’m not much of an athlete but can be pretty competitive. I enjoy practicing yoga and just spending time with friends and family, and making the most of my time here 😊.

David Touchette

Program: M.Sc, Microbiology, Natural Resource Sciences.

Research Interests: My thesis is focus on microbial life detection in extreme environments, especially on Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut. As a member of the McGill Space Institute, my projet is strongly related to possible life detection space mission, on Mars, Europa and Enceladus.

Hometown: I’ve been raised in Sainte-Thérèse, but now living in Montréal!

About me: Even though I’m passionate by science, you will not find me in the lab on weekends. I’m probably somewhere in the wild, hiking, canoeing or exploring Quebec province while taking some nice photos! It’s only while facing an untouched environment that it’s possible to understand the importance of the nature and the beauty of the biology. With my interests for the outdoors and exobiology don’t be surprised that I always have my head in the clouds.

Martina D’Antonio

MartinaI’m a first year PhD student in Neuroscience, trying to unravel the mystery of the cerebellum circuitry. I moved from the warm Sicily (Italy) to the cold Montreal in January 2017, so I’m relatively new to the city and McGill, but I already love them both so much 🙂
I use electrophysiology to study the role of certain ion channels in the circuits of the cerebellum, and how they are disrupted in the context of the Fragile-X syndrome.

If I’m not in the lab, you will probably find me outdoors taking photos or in some place trying the trendiest brunch recommended by MTL Blog for the week. Yes, brunch crawl is definitely my favourite activity!

I’m looking forward to be an active member of the McGill community as a Gradlife Instagrammer and hopefully I will inspire you with some cool photos 😉

Meet Instagrammers from previous years

GradLife Community Engagement Leader

Alison WongAlison Wong pic

Program/Research Interests/Hometown: I’m a master’s student in Physiology studying anti-tumour immunity, particularly investigating which pathways are needed for improved immune killing of cancer cells.  I’m originally from Toronto, and did my undergraduate degree at Western University, so I’m a newcomer to Montreal and loving this city more every day!

About me: Besides working in the lab, I am also involved in science outreach through my volunteering with Let’s Talk Science at McGill.  I have been loving exploring all the neighbourhoods of Montreal so far, especially the amazing cafes in this city.  As a new member of the McGill and Montreal community, I have met so many amazing individuals already, and I hope to make many more lasting relationships here.  I’m excited to be a GradLife community engagement leaders, and look forward to connecting as many people in the graduate student community as possible, and sharing plenty of my own graduate experience!

Alison is also a GradLife Instagrammer

Meet Community Engagement Leaders from previous years

Meet Vloggers from previous years

Meet admin team members from previous years

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