Meet Abigail Lee, undergraduate researcher

Over the next months, I am asking the undergraduate students in my lab to write about their experiences and research in the Wilson Tox Lab.  We are very lucky that many undergraduates are with us for several years as volunteers, experiential learning course students, thesis students, and summer researchers.  The first undergraduate to share her experience is Abigail Lee, who has done all of the above.  Since her second year of undergraduate, Abby has been a near constant in the lab, so much so that we are having a hard time facing that after this summer, she will leave us and move on to medical school.  During her undergraduate degree, Abby has developed into a competent, skilled, and knowledgeable researcher.  She is will be greatly missed.

Abigail Lee, Undergraduate Researcher 

Educational Background:

  • H.BSc. Biology, Minor Biochemistry, McMaster University, 2016

I am currently working on a project studying the effects of pharmaceuticals on the budding rate, morphology, feeding behavior and regenerative capacity of brown Hydra.

I’ve been a part of the Wilson lab since the second year of my undergraduate career and needless to say this has become like my second home! I was lucky enough to be taken in as a volunteer, where I began familiarizing myself with the lab environment by being the primary animal husbandry person for our zebrafish. Soon, I began splitting my time working on the Lake Whitefish species, where I was a given a project to determine the effects short term heat shocks on the development of Lake Whitefish. I was awarded an NSERC USRA in the summer of my second year where I wrote my first paper about the research I completed with Lake Whitefish (Read my paper here, shameless plug: doi: 10.1016/j.jtherbio.2016.01.010.). In my third year, I switched gears towards a molecular biology approach and completed an independent research project (Science 3RP3) studying the effects of different temperature regimes on gene expression of oxidative phosphorylative genes in Lake Whitefish. Finally, for my senior thesis, I studied the effects of fluoxetine and carbamazepine on multiple different endpoints in Brown Hydra. I am currently working on writing a manuscript to publish this work. In my final summer work term, along with completing my Hydra project, I am also helping with Shayen Sreethanran’s ( M.Sc. thesis studying the effects of low dose radiation in mice.

I would not be the person I am today without this entire experience in the Wilson Lab. I’ve been a volunteer, an independent research course student, a thesis student and a summer work student and I can walk away confidently saying that I have learned so many different techniques and skills that will serve me for a lifetime.

Some important things that I learned while working in the Wilson lab are:

1) Always try something new; don’t only cling to what you know but immerse yourself into something new, without fear, because you never know what you may learn.

2) Never give up; research does not always work out your way. Those ‘not statistically significant’ results are still results! Keep working hard!

3) Don’t underestimate any experience; I began with racking tips and cleaning poop out of fish tanks, but look where that brought me! Every experience will take you closer to where you want to be.

The people in the lab have become like my family; they took me under their wings and have shaped me to become the scientist I am today. The collaborative atmosphere allowed me to learn from the best and the satisfaction of working my way up from a volunteer to an independent researcher is incomparable to any other experience. It’s true that hard work and determination pay off!

My time at McMaster University is nearing an end and I will be attending the University of Toronto to pursue an M.D. But this won’t be the last time the research world hears my name, I hope to eventually pursue a Ph.D to combine my love of research with my passion for medicine.