Biomolecular science graduate Dr. David McWatters (BSc '13, PhD '22) reflects on the experiences he had during his time at ULethbridge. Biomolecular science is a multidisciplinary program that enables go-getters like David to thrive. Collaborative research and pursuing connections are important highlights of David's time here at ULethbridge.

Follow your curiosity and the questions you are passionate about. Interact with as many people as you can, the scientific community is great and wonderful things will come out of getting to know your peers and members of yours and other departments.

Following are David's responses reflecting on his time at ULethbridge.

What was your research based on?

My research is based on the idea that there is a lot of variation in the way non-coding RNAs function and have evolved in different species.

What unique opportunities did you get by taking part in this research?

By working in systems that are less well studied I was able to learn a broad range of different techniques to study biological questions and was able to blend wet-lab approaches with computational approaches to biology.

What is your biggest takeaway from being involved in this research?

My biggest takeaway is that there is still so much left to learn. The diversity of species is incredible and evolution has produced an unbelievable amount of unique variation in the way that different organisms can adapt to their environments.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

There have been many very memorable moments, but the one that sticks out to me the most was near the very end of my PhD work. I was working on an experiment in the lab and during incubation periods was playing around with some unusual ways of analyzing some old data for no real reason other than to pass the time. I ended up getting a result from that analysis that was kind of a light bulb moment which connected a whole bunch of different experiments that I had done over the years but never put together and within about 10 minutes it ended up producing a really exciting and unexpected finding.

The excitement from my colleagues when I told them and the feeling of this truly unexpected finding was something I won't forget.

What is the most important lesson you learned during your time at ULethbridge?

The importance of collaboration in science. We all can make individual contributions but science is a global human endeavour and the best things come from doing it together.

Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your uLethbridge experience?

Of course, my PhD supervisor Tony Russell has had a big influence on me, as he has been my scientific mentor for most of my academic career, which I appreciate very much.

One thing that I want to draw attention to though (and this is maybe a bit of a cop-out for the question, but I think is something unique to a school like ULethbridge) is that I was in a very lucky position to have benefited from mentorship from nearly every faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences and many members of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at some point during my PhD.

With a school the size of ULethbridge, I was really lucky in that instead of only being able to go to my supervisor or my committee members I felt like I could always reach out to nearly anyone at any time if I needed something.

Mentorship and support come in so many different forms and I had a whole community to rely on for it in Lethbridge which I think is a pretty special situation. I think that is one of the greatest strengths of ULethbridge and one I hope graduate students take advantage of.

Did you receive scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies?

I believe the award that had the biggest impact on me was for an oral presentation I gave on my research at the RiboWest conference in 2019. This award granted me a talk in a special session at a larger conference in Quebec that allowed me to meet many predominant researchers in my field, and other young researchers from across the world, and share my work with a broader audience, which ultimately led to my current Postdoctoral position.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I just started a postdoctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is a dream position for me following my PhD. My hope is that I will ultimately get the opportunity to start my own research group and teach at a university so that I can continue to do science while also having the chance to get more people interested in pursuing their curiosity through science!

What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

Follow your curiosity and the questions you are passionate about. Interact with as many people as you can, the scientific community is great and wonderful things will come out of getting to know your peers and members of yours and other departments.

Congratulations, David!

Welcome to the ULethbridge Alumni Family... Don't forget to call! Stay connected with classmates, share your successes, mentor future ULethbridge students and enjoy Alumni perks and benefits!

Update your contact information with Alumni Relations.
Find us on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn
Read more about your fellow alumni