Student testimonials: Where are our grads now?

John Prindiville, MSc Biology (Toxicology)

Tell me about your job. Is what you do different in any way from what others in your profession do?

I work for a federal government program conducting ecological risk assessments of substances that are new to Canada. This involves reviewing toxicological and physical/chemical data and exposure information to evaluate the hazard, environmental fate, and potential for ecological risk. Where a potential risk is identified, I help develop mitigation measures and supporting regulatory instruments.

My job represents a specialized part of the environmental assessment field and differs from other types of ecological assessments in that it is focused on individual substances rather than being project-based, such as environmental impact assessments (e.g. infrastructure projects) or risk assessments and remediation of contaminated sites.

Can you tell me about your background and how you got into this field?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science (biology) and Master’s of Science (biology, with specialization in chemical and environmental toxicology), both from the University of Ottawa. I’ve always found toxicology very interesting as it is truly multidisciplinary, mixing biology, chemistry and pharmacology.

My career in the environmental science field began during my graduate program and started with contract work for the federal government developing guidance documents on how to evaluate and interpret ecotoxicity studies.

What personal characteristics are required for someone to be successful in your job?

Detail oriented, inquisitive, comfortable with self-directed learning, and not being reluctant to ask questions.

How much job security is there for people in your field?

Being employed by the federal government, there is reasonable job security.  There is always a greater element of uncertainty for those who pursue work in consultancy, which is a substantial portion of the field.

What other jobs could you do with the skills you have gained in this field?

Other potential career avenues could be: toxicologist/scientist for private labs; regulatory affairs for industry; environmental health and safety;

What do you think the future holds for people in your profession?

I think that public interest in maintaining and promoting healthy environments and sustainable development is strong and will remain so. This will translate into fulfilling careers for those interested in the profession.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

The biggest challenge is always staying current with the recent advancements in the field, and then incorporating them into the workplace.

What should people do to get started: Any suggestions about courses or study program, internships, etc.?

One of my learning moments was realizing the fundamental importance of chemistry in environmental science and toxicology. I would advise taking environmental chemistry courses to anyone interested in the field.

There are federal student work experience programs and co-op placements that offer great opportunities to learn about government involvement in this field while gaining work experience.

Liza Hamilton, MSc Biology (Ecology)

Degree attained at uOttawa: Masters in Biology

Final degree attained: Masters in Biology

Job Title: Biologist

 “My Master's degree in Biology from the University of Ottawa directly prepared me for the work I do daily in my career. I work for a consulting company and we regularly design studies to assess the impact of human activities such as mining and development on the aquatic environment. My strong background in bio-statistical analysis has been the most useful skill I honed during my time at Ottawa U. Statistics is something that few people are competent at and it is invaluable when working in this field. Understanding statistics and what they can do for you helps in proper experimental design for large and small scale projects. My Master's degree also allowed me to learn how to take a project from the beginning stages and see it through to the end. Having practical experience before stepping into the work-force helps open up doors for graduate students.”

Valérie S. Langlois, PhD Biologie (Toxicology)

Degree attained at uOttawa: B. Sc. Env. Sciences and Ph. D. Biology

Final degree attained: Ph. D. Biology

Job title: Environmental Toxicology and Endocrinology Laboratory (ETE), Dept. Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, Royal Military College of Canada

“My Ph. D. in biology at UO was an unique opportunity for me to learn how to conduct rigorous research in the field of biological sciences. During my degree, I was mentored and trained by highly qualified professors who made my UO experience critically important and positive to obtain my current job as an Assistant Professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.”

Robert Zhao, PhD Biology

Degree attained at uOttawa: MSc and PhD in Biology

Final degree attained: PhD in Biology

Job Title: Manager, Life Science, L’Oréal R&I China

“Bio PhD degree is the primary condition for the manager-level position at the department of Life Science in L’Oréal R&I, even if the applicant has a rich working experience in cosmetics and/or biology.”

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