VIDEO: Laura McKiel: PhD Candidate in Chemical Engineering

Posted on February 09, 2017

Meet Laura McKiel, a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Queen's. Visit the Queen's University School of Graduate Studies to learn more.

  • Video Transcript:

    Hi, my name's Laura McKiel. I'm a PhD student in Lindsay Fitzpatrick's lab in the Department of Chemical Engineering. I look at the immune response to bio-material implants, specifically polymer surfaces.

    So, right now I'm working with different cell lines and culturing them on surfaces and seeing how they react to different materials, but eventually, I'm going to be doing some animal models and I'm also going to be harvesting blood from people and isolating their white blood cells and looking at those responses as well.

    I started in general engineering first year and went into chemical engineering. I was interested in biology, biomedical engineering, and chemical engineering was kind of the only discipline that gives you that option.

    In between third year and fourth year, I had a summer job in Montreal working at a vaccine manufacturing company. And that got me really interested, really motivated. It was something I really enjoyed and I found it so interesting, and at the end of the summer I just asked, 'What do I need to do to be qualified enough to work in a place like this after?' And they said, 'You definitely need to do grad school.' So, that's where it started.

    I never thought that I would do grad school before that point. I kind of thought I'd just go through school and, you know, work somewhere as a chemical engineer.

    So, after working there I was kind of like, 'Okay, grad school; interesting.' I started looking at profs. I looked at a bunch of universities all across Canada. It ended up being that the department here got two new professors recently in biomedical engineering.

    My supervisor, Lindsay, her research interests me the most, so I submitted an application to her. I had interviews with a few other profs at other schools, but her research is really what interested me the most. So, I started right after undergrad, May, 2015, in my master's program, and then just last month got promoted to a PhD.

    In ChemEng we're pretty lucky, we have a pretty high stipend compared to some of the other departments. So, you definitely, you have enough money for tuition and rent and food, and you have a little bit left over. You also have to think, you're investing in your future really. After you have either a master's or PhD degree, you'll be able to get a job that will give you an even higher salary.

    All the profs are really easy to talk to they're really approachable, chemical engineering we have a ChemEng graduate student association, CEGSA, so that's been really awesome because they organize a lot of departmental events. If you're interested, you should definitely go for it. I think you'll find it really rewarding. It's just so different. You just don't even know what it's going to be like until you start I think.

    Kingston's still really close to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, so it's not hard to go see other people... I'm liking it a lot more now that I'm in grad school and I have time to explore it. There's a lot of cool farmer's markets and Kingston seems to have all these festivals and events that go on every weekend, so you can usually find something to do and lots of good food, too.

    (Voiceover) You're investing your future really, and you should definitely go for it.