Discovering a passion for research

Undergrad research experience leads to new calling and career path

When Adelyn Moore (BSc’23) first came to McGill in 2019 from her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology, she had a clear career path in mind. But when she joined a research program on campus to gain experience in her field, she discovered a new passion and calling—and her plans quickly changed.

“Studying in high school, I was really interested in science. I eventually got my certification as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and wanted to go into clinical medicine. And then I went to my first research lab at McGill and fell in love with research.”

Sparking a new passion

Adelyn’s first lab experience was during her second year at McGill, when she was accepted into a summer research program back home. But it wasn’t until she returned to campus that she pursued research projects in her field and her passion really started to grow.

“My undergrad experience has had a profound effect on my decision to pursue research instead of medicine. I think with your first lab, you gain experience into what research is, how the lab works. Then in your second lab, you get a better idea of what type of research you want to do.”

Adelyn’s second lab experience at McGill was an honours research program in Dr. Gabriel Venne’s lab in the Anatomy and Cell Biology Department. Her work, which is ongoing, focuses on researching fascia, the network of connective tissue found throughout our bodies.

“This is the most interesting project I’ve worked on. As we age, the fascia can get stiff and cause issues like back pain. What’s interesting is that the back pain you’re experiencing could be because you have tight fascia in your feet. It’s all intertwined, so there’s a lot of research on how to treat the entire body instead of just the part that’s hurting.”

Falling in love with lab work (and learning on the job)

“My favourite part about research is the problem-solving aspect. It’s very logical and there are so many ways to come at a problem. The other part I love is that you’re filling a knowledge gap and it’s constantly progressing the field forward. If the field moves forward, more treatments can be developed, so it feels like you’re breaking new ground.”

For Adelyn, one of the more challenging aspects of research is that every project is unfamiliar. And, unlike in a classroom setting, you have to figure things out for yourself.

“They kind of throw you in at the deep end and that can be a little stressful. But it also teaches you a lot. It’s a lot of learning on the job, making mistakes. You can’t rely on your professor for answers. It teaches you a lot about independence and being proactive, so I feel like I can do research on my own now.”

A bright future in the research field

Adelyn was recently accepted to McGill’s Biological and Biomedical Engineering (BBME) master’s program, which she’ll be starting this year. In Fall 2023, she’ll also be joining Dr. Ahmad Haidar’s lab, where she’ll be working to develop more effective devices for diabetes.

“This lab is really interesting because it’s more what I want to do. In Dr. Venne’s lab, I worked with cadavers and took a lot of samples. This new lab involves clinical trials, so it’s a little more medicine meets research and it’s something I’m really excited about.”

At the same time, she will continue working with Dr. Venne and is currently waiting for her samples to be returned so she can write her research paper.

Advice for prospective students interested in research

Adelyn Moore sitting on a benchAs a McGill student ambassador, Adelyn helps prospective students get to know the University and all it has to offer. When it comes to applying for research opportunities in a world-class research setting, she says that while it can be daunting at first, McGill professors are there to help you navigate the different options and find the best fit.

“A lot of professors here are very keen to let undergrads come in and experience research. They’ve all been very supportive in helping me pick a research project and providing me with resources to get started.”

For Adelyn, McGill is one of the best possible environments to gain research experience, build real-world skills and figure out your career path.

“The nice thing about McGill is, number one, there’s a lot of different ways to get involved in research. Number two is that McGill is a big research-based university, so almost all professors do research, even professors in arts. And number three is that it gives you great experience and helps you better understand what career path you want to take.”

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