Postcard from Toronto: A former Globalink research intern makes a new home in Canada

By Kartikay Chadha

A new international research opportunity

I learned about the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship from a friend of mine who was a Globalink alumnus. He told me about his experiences and encouraged me to apply to go to Canada in 2014. I was also motivated by the quality of research projects offered and the new educational, cultural, and life experiences I knew I could have.

I was selected for a Globalink Research Internship at OCAD University. My project, supervised by Dr. Martha Ladly, was to design an iPad application for seniors diagnosed with early-stage dementia. Her mentorship has been a source of inspiration and guidance for me.

Exploring Canada’s research landscape

Canada is the land of opportunities! Academic researchers here work on immensely interesting projects and welcome students from around the globe to contribute. Canada’s universities are welcoming places where student can learn and improve their skills in any field.  The people of Canada have always been welcoming. The Niagara tour organized by our mentors was an awesome experience in itself. 

The Globalink Research Internship exposed me to a completely different culture, both in education and everyday life. I also realized the importance of my work and found research topics that fascinated me.

Starting grad school in Canada

The opportunity to learn enticed me to come back to Canada. Who would have thought that ballet dancing can be a source of treatment for Parkinson’s disease? Or that a robot could assist someone with Alzheimer’s? Or that an iPad application could help someone suffering from dementia?

During my internship in 2014, I met Dr. Jo Knight, at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. I mentioned a project idea I had to develop an algorithm to prioritize variants for Alzheimer’s disease by human DNA sequence statistical analysis. She thought it had potential, so she invited me to work with her as part of my undergraduate placement. The results were promising, so I applied to and was accepted to graduate school at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Medical Science.

I have been immensely lucky to have Dr. Knight as my supervisor. As an international student, I faced some challenges with logistics but was able to manage everything with her support and encouragement. She helps her students develop not only as researchers, but as people.

Because of my Globalink research internship, I was eligible for funding through the Globalink Graduate Fellowship. This award made a shining star on my application for the graduate school.

A second home

I am the happiest person on earth to be back! It feels like I am back with my second family and my lab at CAMH, my second home. I am carrying on my project from my undergraduate placement with Dr. Knight. I am working on the statistical analysis of genome-wide association studies data, trying to learn statistics, and applying my computational background to detect significant variants in human DNA sequences. We are optimistic that this may be a promising method for detecting Alzheimer’s disease.

I feel so proud to be a part of U of T, ranked in the top 20 universities of the world. I love that the students and professors work together towards the better world. The university is a city within itself with multinational students, professors, and staff, and I see it as a place to gain knowledge, interact and make new friends, and build life-long memories.

A message to international students

I strongly recommend the Globalink Research Internship. IT IS AWESOME and I say that from experience. Your efforts will pay off if you come to Canada. It’s a beautiful place to work and live in! 

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for their support of the Globalink Graduate Fellowship program in this story. Across Canada, the Globalink program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

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