Learning from the home lab
Environmental Applied Science and Management MASc alumna
When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared last March, Rachel McNamee was deep in her research on the impact of microplastics on freshwater zooplankton. With campus labs shut down, her thesis supervisors Dr. Lynda McCarthy and Dr. Martina Hausner suggested she bring the lab home.
Using a borrowed microscope, mason jars and a gas stove instead of a bunsen burner, McNamee was able to continue her experiments and successfully defend her thesis.
“I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity,” said McNamee. “There were so many people who supported me and allowed this to happen.”
What inspires your research?
I feel strongly that we need to be better stewards of the Earth. While pollution can sometimes seem abstract as a problem, plastic is the most prevalent type of oceanic and Great Lakes debris. The statistics are staggering. I hope my research will be able to help in the future.
How is your Ryerson graduate education preparing you for your career?
My master’s degree prepared me with the necessary background information in ecology and environmental science for my upcoming PhD at the University of Waterloo. I will be examining the effects of microplastics on freshwater biofilms as part of a large research project at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario.
How was your relationship with your thesis supervisors?
Both of my supervisors, Dr. Lynda McCarthy and Dr. Martina Hausner, were incredibly supportive and creative. They helped in planning and preparing for materials to be brought home, provided intellectual insights when things went awry and give ongoing support and encouragement.
What advice do you have for graduate students?
- Think about why you are in graduate school and have a plan.
- Find people who will help and challenge you, i.e., supervisor(s), lab technologists, technicians, managers, labmates, friends and family.
- Don’t be overly wed to any one idea.
- Graduate school can challenge you in unexpected ways; it’s an important part of the process.
- Read, a lot.
Photo: Andy Lee