All courses for every first-year Science student will be delivered online this fall. A limited number of students in their second, third and fourth years will return to campus for part of the semester.

Introducing MSU President & CEO - Giancarlo Da-Ré

Giancarlo Da Ré
Giancarlo Da-Ré grew up in Markham, where his first job (10 years ago) was working at Whittamore’s Pick Your Own Farm with Jess Anderson, incoming Vice President (Finance). Da-Ré is graduating from Chemical Biology Co-op and enjoys coffee, making Spotify playlists, watching Grey’s Anatomy, and learning how things work. At McMaster, he has worked as a Chemistry Teaching Assistant, CLAY Part-Time Manager, and Residence Orientation Advisor for McKay, Edwards, and PGCLL.

During his term as President, Da-Ré plans to focus on course accessibility through increased use of Echo360 and ensuring completion of the new AODA-compliant MSU website, a number of sustainability initiatives including advocating for a plastic bottle ban at McMaster, increased support for international students that encompasses a new International Student Advisory Committee and supporting students during COVID-19.

What key lessons learned from your Science degree will you be drawing on during your time as MSU president?
I think of my degree as 5 years of critical thinking and analysis. In that sense, it has prepared me incredibly well for my position as MSU President during such an unprecedented year. My Chemical Biology cohort was also quite close-knit which gave me a strong sense of community within my program. Now more than ever, we need to centre the strength of our community as we navigate the pandemic.

Why did you choose Chemical Biology?
I have always been curious to learn about how the world operates, and in the field of Science, I frequently probed instructors for deeper reasoning as to why things happen in the way they do. I quickly became frustrated by answers such as, “that’s just the way it works”, or, “that’s out of the scope of this course”. I desired an interdisciplinary option that was built upon the “why” question that I had been asking. Chemical Biology was that option, and the way it made me think about the world on an atomic level shapes the way I see our community on a macro scale today.

Favourite course from your Science degree and why?
I have always thought of chemistry as a puzzle that requires different sets of puzzle pieces to build a larger picture. The courses from my degree have taught me not just about the different types of puzzle pieces, but about how they fit together and when to use them. In that sense, my favourite course was CHEM 3OA3: Organic Synthesis, because by then I had a really strong understanding of the foundational pieces that I could use to solve larger puzzles. I also found CHEM 2SC3: Sustainable Chemistry, incredibly fascinating, mainly because it was the only course I had taken that saw sustainability in the both smaller and larger communities through an interdisciplinary lens as it relates to chemistry, business and public policy.

Who had the biggest impact on you and why?
While I have never had the privilege of taking one of her courses, Kate Whalen has had the largest impact on me. Not only is she incredibly passionate about her work at the Academic Sustainability Programs Office; she genuinely takes the time to support those around her in their own journeys. Kate has taught me more about community development, leadership and internal reflection as a vehicle for self-growth and life-enhancement than most other people in my life. She has unintentionally taught me how to enjoy life more through both the work I do and the people I surround myself with. Kate is absolutely fearless, and she is someone I look up to greatly.

Your best experience as a Science student?
My favourite experience as a Science student was during my 3rd year when I had the privilege of planning and executing McMaster’s fastest ever non-sporting sell-out event, and McMaster Science’s annual formal event: Formaldehyde. I was inspired by how Daniel Tuba D’Souza (2016) and Ryan Threndyle (2017) had built such an intimate experience for the Science community in the years before me. McMaster Science is made up of an incredible community of individuals and selling 850 tickets in under 2 minutes online was symbolic of how special that community is. I will always be thankful for those who made that event possible: Samm Reynolds, Larissa Turco, Martino Salciccioli and Tuneesh Ranota.

You've been actively involved on campus and in the community. Where does that commitment to get involved come from? Who or what inspired you?
I was welcomed into Woodstock Hall in my first year by roughly 1000 passionate student volunteers, and I moved out of Hamilton in my fifth year during a global pandemic. I am motivated by the strength of our communities during our highest moments, and the enormous resiliency of our communities during our lowest moments. I am constantly inspired by the people around me who have contributed to the communities that I benefit from, and my commitment to involvement stems from my desire to build from the incredible work of those who have come before me. They have set the groundwork for me, so that I can lay the foundation for generations to come.

You've said that accessibility and sustainability will the focus for your term as president. Why are those issues important to you?
I don’t think of accessibility and sustainability as issues; I think of them as strengths. Accessibility and sustainability are both integral themes that strengthen our community, and by creating a more accessible and sustainable community, our community will undoubtedly grow stronger. Especially as we work to re-build our communities and economies out of the pandemic, we must ensure that our strategies are accessible and that we are incorporating Sustainable Development Goals into those strategies. Rather than striving to “return to normal”, these themes will assist us in reaching for something better than we had before.

What's your career goal? 
To be entirely honest, I’m not quite sure. I know that I want to work with people, and that I want to work towards building stronger communities. My vision for that is quite interdisciplinary and so I do not have a career goal in mind yet. I will be applying to Masters programs in the Fall, and I look forward to probably changing my mind a few more times over the next year before I turn the page onto my next chapter in life.

Meet New Faculty Member - Jeremy Walsh

JeremyMeet Jeremy Walsh, an Assistant Professor in the Department Of Kinesiology. Jeremy is joining us from the University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus.

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?
My interest in human physiology was progressively built by deep curiosity to understand how the body works, and to use this knowledge to improve health. Along this path, I have been extremely fortunate to have had teachers, mentors, colleagues, and family members who have inspired me, fanned the flames of my curiosity, and encouraged exploration. A major catalyst on this journey was a book that I read during my 4th year of undergraduate studies titled “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge. I was inspired to consider how exercise can be strategically used to exploit mechanisms of brain plasticity for the enhancement of brain function across the lifespan. I proposed these ideas for my Master’s project (Queen’s University, working with Dr. Michael Tschakovsky) that set the foundation for my enthusiasm and excitement for science, and set the trajectory that has led me to McMaster.

What's the focus of your research?
My overarching research interest is to investigate how behaviours that span the entire day (physical activity, sedentary behaviours, diet, and sleep) impact cognition and brain health. This knowledge will in turn be used to develop interventions for the improvement of brain health across the lifespan in health and disease. My research to date has primarily focused on the psychophysiological responses to exercise, sleep, screen time, fasting, and cognitive training in children, university students, and older adults.

When you're not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
When I’m not in the lab or classroom, you can find me outdoors engaged in some type of activity. In the summer I spend my free time road biking, camping, hiking, and playing soccer. In the winter, I love snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and playing hockey.

Jeremy completed his Honours BA from Wilfrid Laurier University in Kinesiology and Physical Education. He completed MSc and Ph.D. from Queen’s University in Exercise Physiology. Following graduate school, Jeremy completed two post-doctoral fellowships: one at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa with a focus on pediatric brain health and a second at the University of British Columbia - Okanagan Campus with a focus on metabolism and brain health.


Meet New Faculty Member - Katie Moisse

Katie Moisse Meet Katie Moisse, Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Science. Katie is joining us from New York, where she worked as a science journalist.

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?
I'm so lucky to have had amazing science and math teachers and a physics teacher dad. My dad used to visit elementary schools in my hometown as "Mr. Science." He'd do silly demonstrations with water rockets and all kinds of gadgets. I've grown up knowing that getting people excited about science — showing them that science belongs to everyone — is as important as doing science.

What's the focus of your research?
I'm a teaching prof so I'm really interested in how to engage students in large classes and help them develop and apply science communication skills. I also study the media's role in shaping people's perceptions of science and scientists.

When you're not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
I have two little kids who are endlessly curious, so I love talking to them about science and nature. The other day my son asked how many cells are in a cell. It sparked an awesome conversation about what cells are made of and what they do. I'm lucky — science communication is my job and a hobby!

Katie completed her undergrad in Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, where she became very interested in movement disorders. She then completed her master’s at King's College London in the U.K. with a focus on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She continued to study ALS for her Ph.D. in the lab of Michael Strong at Western. Katie then went to Columbia University in New York City for a master’s in journalism. She worked as a science journalist in New York before coming to McMaster to teach science communication.

Meet New Faculty Member - Pratheepa Jeganathan

Pratheepa JeganathanMeet Pratheepa Jeganathan, an assistant professor in the Mathematics & Statistics department. Pratheepa is joining us from Stanford University.

Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?
I always wanted to have a career where the quest for knowledge and challenges that engage in thinking about never ends. I have been blessed with several excellent teachers during high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral training. Their zeal and passion for nurturing young individuals to solve challenges using data by building methods upon previous knowledge and are more incremental have left an enduring impact on my career as a scientist.

What's the focus of your research?
My research centers on the statistical challenges that arise in analyzing multi-domain data. For example, data on the vaginal ecosystem (VE) and host response (HR) can be represented in multiple tables. They can be derived using high-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies from pregnant women at multiple time points. VE data can be collected as the 16S rRNA gene sequencing, metagenomics, metabolomics, and metatranscriptomics of vaginal samples. Data on HR can include host cytokine expression profiles and single-cell mass cytometry intensities obtained from whole-blood samples. Integrating these data can provide a comprehensive understanding of the vaginal ecosystem in pregnant women. These data are complex because of their technical variability, high-dimensionality, heterogeneity, multiple modalities, sparsity, and dependency. This complexity increases the demand for researching robust statistical methods that can generate interpretable results.

One of my research directions focuses on developing nonparametric statistical procedures that can offer provable computational and statistical guarantees for analyzing multi-domain HTS data and can be easily used by domain experts.

I am also researching empirical higher-order approximation theory in statistics for multi-domain data, extending my graduate research into saddlepoint approximations for statistical inference in time series, spatial, and survival analysis.

To further consolidate these efforts, I am interested in collaborating with mathematicians to meld profound technical ideas and domain scientists to evaluate and apply the procedures emerging from my research.

When you're not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
Apart from academic activities, I practice Bombay jam – dance fitness and workout, occasionally play badminton, table tennis, board, and card games, cook Sri Lankan food and desserts, do painting, and involve in cultural activities.

Pratheepa completed her undergraduate degree in Statistics and Operations Research at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. She then was a lecturer in statistics at the University of Peradeniya before pursuing graduate studies. She received an MS in Statistics and a Ph.D. in Mathematics with an emphasis in Statistics from Texas Tech University. While completing her Ph.D., she interned at the Research and Testing Laboratory in Lubbock and the Clinical Research Institute at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Pratheepa completed postdoctoral training in the Department of Statistics at Stanford University focused on developing statistical and computational methods for analyzing high-throughput sequencing data. She taught undergraduate courses at Texas Tech University and Stanford University.

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