Past GradLife McGill Bloggers

Past GradLife McGill Bloggers


Luis Angel Villegas Armenta

Luis 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”.

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


Marion MaliqueMarion  

Born in France, raised at the border with Switzerland, I’ve travelled quite a lot before setting up here in Montreal. After a bachelor degree in cinema and French literature at the University of Montreal, I decided to switched colours – from blue to red – and apply for a graduate program in creative writing at McGill University.

Therefore, I write mostly in French – yes, there is a small French department at McGill – and will gladly start writing in English for GradLife McGill.

Passionate by music, literature and culture in general, I hope to become a radio host, a blogger or anything that will allow me to write and talk about what I love.

Marion was also a GradLife McGill Instagrammer

Heather McPhersonHeather McPherson 

Program:  PhD Education, Dept. of Integrated Studies

I’m a native of Winnipeg, where I grew up, did a BSc (Environmental Studies, University of Winnipeg), MSc in Agriculture (weird for a city girl, but mind expanding) and a BEd  (from U of Manitoba). My first year of teaching in Winnipeg was a particularly cold winter, which is saying a lot.  One day, after helping five teachers jump their cars because the plug-in electrical system in the staff parking lot was over loaded, I said “That IT.  I’m outta here”.  And I ended up in Montreal.

I have been teaching high school science ever since (26 years, but it seems like 10).  I thoroughly enjoy being in the classroom and spending time with the students.  I take them to Costa Rica to study the rainforest, and to New Brunswick to study Marine Biology.  I coerce them to do science fair projects and that has taken both my students and me to Phoenix, LA, and Pittsburgh to attend the International Science Fair.

I have been involved with a variety of committees aimed at implementation of the Quebec Education Reform, which I find fascinating.  My children are mostly grown up, and so now seemed to be the perfect time for me just do it, and go back to school. My research will focus on the Quebec education reform, by initiating a community of practice for teachers.

Things not on my CV:  I spent two weeks volunteering at the top a mountain writing educational materials for elementary students in Costa Rica on the reintroduction of the Great Green Macaw (highly endangered) into the rainforest, and secondly, while in Costa Rica, I spend my evenings perfecting a recipe for Guaro (like a really rough tequila) cocktail.

Nick ZeltBiopic_Nick 

I’m a Master’s student in Microbiology and Immunology studying vaccine development for the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis. I don’t think anyone really expects it before they meet me, but school is kind of my happy place. Not sure when it became home but I’d sure miss it if I ever left.

Besides that, I like to read. Quite a bit actually. Mostly you’ll catch me in the fantasy section because I still hold the slightest hope that there might be magic out there. Whenever my mind is not actively engaged elsewhere you can almost guarantee that I’ll be listening to podcasts. I know they’ve made a big difference to my life, so if you don’t listen to any yet then you should start.

I go to bed early, but dammit I wake up early every single day so I am okay with that. Lastly, I would like to say thank you to school bags, for always having my back.

Aleks Budarick14242212_10154779022064341_2953784458437733919_o

I am a second year master’s student in Kinesiology, studying ice hockey biomechanics. I am very interested in sport specific research including performance enhancement and injury prevention.

I enjoy being active and doing anything outdoors, especially running around Mount Royal. I am excited to keep exploring Montreal this year – always on the hunt to find the cutest café, best pizza, or most photogenic street art – and to share my graduate experience with the GradLife McGill community.

Aleks was a GradLife McGill Instagrammer and Coordinator.

Paolo SaporitoPaolo_Saporito_Pic_Gradlife

Well, the last time I told a story to a dear friend, she said that I was really dramatic and passionate. I do not know if these two adjectives were standing for “extremely boring” or “please, stop it!”, but I know that I love writing and telling stories (funny, hopefully).

Italian, PhD student in Italian Studies (yes, I am from Italy, yes, I love food – not only pizza and pasta – and especially wine), I have been living in Montreal since August 2015. I study Literature and Cinema and in my free time (when I have it), I like swimming, hiking and spending never-ending dinners with friends (yes, most of them are from Italy). I am also a creative writer of short stories (just in Italian though, at least so far) and a kind of a poet (in English as well! However, I do not know yet if the “poet” definition fits me). In Italy, I had many different work experiences (waiter, journalist, etc..) and I worked as an Italian teacher (something that I would like to become, one day – need to learn Italian?).

Moving abroad is one of the most important decisions I made so far. Here, at McGill, I learned different and innovative approaches to my subject and I am allowed to mix Literature, Cinema and New Media. This aspect may be obvious for a student from North America, but it is not for students from Europe. The opportunity to meet different points of view and perspectives about the life and its forms of representation gives me the enthusiasm with which I read, write and work every single day. And, to be honest, I have to say thank you to London for this enthusiasm. In fact, Montreal is not my first experience abroad: in 2014, I lived in the UK capital, where I worked for almost one year (and I enjoyed it a lot, trust me).

What else to say? Nothing, because I am sure that my being passionate and dramatic is becoming extremely boring!

Akshay KohliAkshay Kohli GradLife

People are fascinating, the fact that they are unpredictable and that most of the times

completely stupid! An MBA student who spends most of his time at the Bronfman building either studying or just pretending to study, I like to read and sometimes tweet about business, life and people.

Born in India, an engineer and a sports enthusiast there are two things that I am extremely passionate about at this moment. One- to succeed in the business world and the other is to mentor students/people to help them grow in the career and life. In the past few years I have mentored over 15 students achieve their career aspirations and wish to do more in the future.

I have been adoring Montreal for over a year now and love the vibe of the city. My plan for this year is to explore the city as much as possible! Blogging for GradLife is a great opportunity for me to share my experiences at the best business school in Canada, and I hope I bring the best out of the fun we have at Bronfman building!

Keerthana HarwalkarKeerthana pic

I am a first year master’s student in Human Genetics, studying homeostasis and cancer in the oviduct. I grew up in India and have lived there almost all my life, until, of course, now. I spend most of my free time (when I’m not in class or in lab) goofing off at home and constantly complaining about how cold it is here in Montreal. Also, trying my best not to set off the fire alarm while cooking, and then complaining that I need to wash dishes. You’ll find that I whine quite a lot in my spare time.

I enjoy being a couch potato and not moving from any comfortable spot on the couch for a long time. I am athletically challenged and will fall over repeatedly, even when I’m standing. I love cats, but prefer watching cat videos all day instead of just getting a cat. I’m lazy like that. I am a huge bookworm and a crazy otaku.

I am extremely excited to be on the GradLife team as a blogger because it gives me time to do something I’ve really wanted to for the longest time – write. I look forward to sharing my experiences and funny anecdotes; something tells me I’m going to have many stories to share!

Kathryn Vaillancourt

Kathryn Vaillancourt pic

I’m a PhD candidate in Neuroscience, a podcaster and a horror movie mega-fan.  When I’m not in the lab,

I’m reading up on science news and the ups and downs of this academic life.



Alexandra Blair

Program: MSc. Psychiatry

Home town: Chelsea, QC

Research Interests:  Psychiatric epidemiology, biostatistics, and the social and economic determinants of mental and physical health.

Career focus:  I hope to build a career that bridges the fields of public health, urban design and development, community empowerment, and disease prevention.

About me:  I am interested in how people are affected by the spaces in which they live, and how social and economic power imbalances affect people’s well-being. This translates into my work outside of school. I am a dedicated advocate for prisoner justice and penal reform, and volunteer my time working with prisoners serving life sentences at a federal penitentiary in Laval. Though politics and social justice are extremely important for me, I also have some more frivolous pastimes. I have an incorrigible fascination with pop culture and bad action movies. As a not-so closeted jock, I love watching and playing sports. Outside of school you’ll find me gardening, eating diner breakfasts every weekend, playing music with friends, and crafting up a storm.

Emilio Dirlikov

Research Interests: My doctoral project looks at how global health plays out in the control of tuberculosis (TB) in China, by examining the creation of national policy, the implementation of policy in central China, and the historical developments that have led to current methods of control.

Hometown: Southeastern Michigan

About Me: I have been a graduate student at McGill since Fall 2005, first for my Masters in Medical Anthropology, and presently for my doctoral degree in Anthropology. Over the last seven years, I’ve been to some seemingly far removed places, such as the cobble-stoned streets of Norway, the private meeting rooms of the Chinese Ministry of Health, rural villages along the ancient Silk Road, a 1,000 year-old Thule Inuit site in the Canadian High Arctic, and of course, various seminar halls scattered throughout the downtown campus. The experiences I had in each of these places was made possible through the opportunities afforded to me as a McGill graduate student.

Over the next year, I will be finishing my field research in China, transitioning back to life in Montreal, and (hopefully) getting a good chunk of my dissertation out of the way. Besides life directly related to my academic work, I will blog about my experience as a grad student in China, and my various interests back home, namely, sports (triathlon training specifically), films, and gastronomy.

Guillaume Viger


Program: It says MEng. Electrical Engineering on the tin, but it’s really “MEng. Online Networks Engineering” inside.

Research Interests: Network science, machine learning, large-scale data analysis, group dynamics

Hometown: Montreal

About me: I am a human being (despite my Software Engineering bachelor’s degree) with emphasis on human as in humanist. I think we humans are (mostly) pretty awesome and when we collaborate we can achieve neat things. And in fact, this is what I research (with an engineering twist!): what are the dynamics at play when online groups coalesce to achieve something?

And how does popularity diffuse    and groups form in the context of open-source software projects? Although I might dabble into my research occasionally on this blog, I am much more likely  to be caught sharing my thoughts on living the “graduate” life from a (quirky) Montrealer’s perspective. You should expect my contributions to this blog to be about events in Montreal, books I read, food I cook, places I visit and people I meet with the occasional commentary on current events.

Je parle aussi français (mon nom est un dead giveaway) et je vais donc contribuer au blogue occasionellement dans la langue de Molière. De toute façon, vous avez toujours voulu apprendre le Français, non?

(photo credit: Kelvin Man Lok Chan)

Kelvin Man Lok Chan


Program: MA in Music Education, Schulich School of Music

Research interests: Piano pedagogy, piano technique, 20th century piano performance practice, globalization and music education

Hometown: Hong Kong

About me: Art to me is a way of living: it is an attitude towards life, a world outlook. Unfortunately it is also something that is extremely misunderstood and neglected in contemporary education. I aspire to not just be an educator, but also an educator’s educator–fundamentally improving the quality of arts education for all is my lifelong goal. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, where business and money overshadows every other aspect of life, including and especially art. Through many years of hard work and constant moving, I now have the privilege to live in Montreal, a culturally and artistically extremely rich city, and a place where I can really take advantage of the countless opportunities around me to grow as a scholar and educator. Eventually, I’ll become a professor of music, and be at a position where I can give back to society by training better teachers–and therefore, students.

Kristina Kasparian

Program: PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders

Research interests: I am interested in language development, bilingualism and the changes that occur in the brain when we learn a new language . My PhD project looks at the language abilities and brain activation patterns of individuals who “lose” their proficiency in their mother-tongue and become stronger in a second language they learned later in life (e.g. due to immigration). Does their brain still process their mother-tongue in the same way as native speakers’ brains do? Or is their predominantly used second language processed more like a mother-tongue than the language they acquired since birth?

Hometown(s): I was born and raised in Montreal, but lived abroad in Europe for a while and returned here for my PhD.

About me: I am a person who loves to laugh, to make meaningful and long-lasting connections with people, who travels as much as possible to discover new places and cultures, and new facets of herself. I’m from Montreal, but with a multicultural and multilinguistic upbringing, and with multiple anchors left in different places, and multiple places to call Home. I am a hard-working grad student whose perfectionism is both her best and worst trait. I am a scientific soul and a creative soul bottled into one. I find it important to be inspired and to feel alive, no matter what life throws at you. I am a coffee addict; five or six cups a day should keep me on my toes. I love my camera, my to-do lists and beautiful vintage things. I don’t like margins, impossibility or goodbyes. My three favorite pastimes are writing, travelling and photography, and I am happiest when I can do all three simultaneously! I also enjoy learning languages, cooking and spending time with family and friends, whether they are here in town or scattered across the globe. 

Lorenzo Daieff


Program: MA Political Science, Development Studies Option.

Research interests: the political economy of developing areas, with a focus on contemporary Latin America. Thesis topic TBD…

Hometown: Born and raised in Munich, Germany, but without an inkling of German genes. Italian name, Franco-Swiss-Bulgarian origins… still trying to figure out that identity thing. Does that count as a thesis topic?

About me: It all started with a single, lone leaflet on a library shelf somewhere over in England. Red-white-red and something about “study in Canada”.  After three enjoyable years pondering Philosophy, Politics and Economics in the UK, it seemed reasonable enough to trade rain for snow, and sure enough I now reside on the other side of the Atlantic. Here, I divide my time between studying for a challenging and rewarding degree, enjoying my work as a Teaching Assistant, and pursuing a number of seemingly unrelated activities, such as fencing for the McGill competitive team, sitting on the council of the graduate students’ association, and trying to find the best vegetarian ‘Poutine’ in buzzing Montréal. My hopes for the future? Writing interesting and engaging posts about life as a graduate at McGill, incorporating the philosophy of my all-time hero Ludwig Wittgenstein into my research, and the ever-so-elusive aim of “making a difference”, all to the tune of Grayson Matthews’ “Toast this life”!

p.s.: à l’occasion, j’essayerai de bloguer quelques billets en français, histoire de varier les plaisirs!

(photo credit: Kelvin Man Lok Chan)

Maryna Lesoway


Program: PhD Biology, Neotropical Environmental Option (NEO, a collaboration between McGill and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute)

Research Interests: How do you get from a single cell to a complex multicellular organism? Why do marine invertebrates have so many ways of doing just that? How do transitions between these different types of development happen? How does development change over evolutionary time? What role does the environment play in development? What do invertebrate larvae do while they are swimming around in the ocean? How do organisms use so many of the same developmental “tools” to make so many different forms?

Hometown: Originally from Calgary, Alberta; I’ve also called Victoria, British Columbia and Kamikawa-cho, Hokkaido, Japan home. I now split my time between Trois-Rivières and Montréal, Québec, and Panama City, Panama.

About Me: After taking an undergraduate field course in invertebrate biology on the west coast, I decided that what I really wanted to do with my life was to play in a tide pool. After a foray into teaching English to students of all ages in both Japan and Québec, I’ve returned to research. Now I am asking questions about the evolution of development and living the lab life. I’m happiest turning over rocks and looking at critters, but I also enjoy sharing good food and good drink with good friends, which is the best way to discuss science and practice a new language!

Sarah Konefal


Program: PhD Neuroscience

Research Interests: I care about how brain cells communicate with each other, and how connections between brain cells are modified by experience (or drugs!) I’m also interested in how the immune system can modulate these connections, and how they become dysregulated in disorders such as schizophrenia.

Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.

About me: Once upon a time (about five years ago), on a rainy, foggy hill near Vancouver (Simon Fraser University), I was looking through a fancy microscope to examine live brain cells. They were lit up with different fluorescent colors like fireworks and I was amazed! This amazement (and curiosity) has lead to my current situation where I am studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms of drug addiction. At this point however, my future career plans are a bit foggy, rather like the hill with a fancy microscope. Perhaps several contemplative blog posts will help me figure these plans out.

My major addiction outside of the laboratory, is mountain biking; especially the genre that involves going downhill. This involves weighty bikes, chair lifts, full-face helmets, and high speeds over technical terrain with jumps, and is something my grandpa would say is “not recommended.” I play basketball, pretend to play the harmonica and have a habit of jumping into cold water (lakes, ocean, etc.) And I am a big fan of chocolate, cake and anything with plenty of sugar in it (including coffee)!

(photo credit: Kelvin Man Lok Chan)

Sarah Sabboobeh


Research Interests: I am a Masters candidate in the department of Biochemistry, specializing in the area of structural biology. My research uses biophysical experimental techniques to obtain the three dimensional structure of proteins and find their potential interactions with other components in the cell to helps us understand the under workings of disease and thus unveil potential therapeutic opportunities. Currently, I am also interested in applying computational and mathematical methods to model structures and interactions of proteins.

Hometown: Amman, Jordan

About me: I strongly identify with the saying, “Write what you’d like to read about” and I’ve always made it my goal to do exactly that.  I seek to highlight experiences and reflections that readers can easily relate to, with a sense of humour and light-heartedness. I enjoy writing fun fairy tales for adults, preferring to dispel dystopic and negative ideas in favour of more positive and optimistic notions.

When I’m not experimenting at the lab, you can find me experimenting in my kitchen. My Middle Eastern/Mediterranean background seems to have me predisposed to combining odd mixes of ingredients for savoury dishes. I enjoy experimenting with Italian recipes and my favorite dish will always remain my mother’s delicious tomato sauce with perfectly cooked spaghetti and chocolate milk on the side.

My music passion is jazz and perhaps accordingly, I find myself oddly attracted to the literature and lifestyle in New York and Paris during the twenties up until the late sixties. Nonetheless, I’m very thankful that my path brought me to study here in this beautiful and artistic city of Montreal, which also happens to be the home of the annual international Jazz festival.


Archi Rastogi
Andrew Harrington
Brian Beckett
Brocke Addison
Brock Rutter
Crystal Ernst
David K. Chen
Denis Hinz
Diana Kwon
Diego Mastroianni
Erik Delaquis
Gwilym Eades
Helgi Skuli Skulason
Jason Polak
Jennifer Campbell
Kate Glover
Kate Turner
Luan Tran
Marie-Eve Coutard Menard
Mark Ellis Gough
Manjari Murthy
Mike George
Neerusha Baurhoo
Nicole D’Souza
Nika Naimi
Rebecca Woodmass
Ria Ghai
Ryan Weist
Tracey Regimbal
Skye Barbic
Valerie Vinette
Vasanth Ramamurthy
Yasmine Ghorayeb
Zsofia Zambo

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