Makay Murray (BSc '19) hopes to one day work in the field of drug discovery and design to help eradicate the next big disease. After excelling in chemistry research as an undergraduate student at the University of Lethbridge, Makay decided to stay on and pursue his master's and then his doctorate. Scholarships and awards have helped him realize these dreams by helping fund his education and focus on research.

I want to share a sincere thank you to any donors to these programs, as their support allowed me to focus without distraction on my research that has seen publication. My research work is publicly available and will benefit humankind in the future. In addition, their support has crafted me into a highly skilled and professional computational chemist who will continue to help progress chemical sciences and the Canadian economy for decades.

Meet Makay | Trivia. Detail oriented. Artist.
Program: Doctor of Philosophy | Major: Theoretical and Computational Science

What is your research based on? What unique opportunities do you get by taking part in this research?

My research is a blend of biochemical and computational work on DNA-based aptamers and simulating them in a computer to better learn their structure and function. This work will be applied to create in silico aptamers for anti-venom medications.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

My participation in the institutionally held Chinook Symposium was a highlight! The ability to 'see behind the curtain,' so to speak, of the research going on in our science facilities was eye-opening. It also allowed me to present my work to my graduate and academic colleagues, where I won two first-place prizes in the MSc Chemistry and Agility Innovation categories.

How have your professors impacted your education?

Dr. Stacey Wetmore has been a joy to learn from in my undergrad and graduate studies. I couldn't have asked for a more knowledgeable or skilled PI. During my undergrad, I thoroughly enjoyed many chemistry professors, from Dr. Dibble's historical anecdotes to drive the point of a lesson home to Dr. Gerken's raw enthusiasm for inorganic chemistry. Lastly, Dr. Hayes's slow, systematic approach to the tricky inorganic topics really allowed them to sink in in a way that I don't think many other professors could match.

Makay has excelled at every aspect of being a graduate student at the University of Lethbridge. What has made Makay shine particularly bright is all the extra tasks he has been involved in, which he does with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. - Dr. Stacey Wetmore, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, nominated Makay as a Shining Student.

Is there someone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

My closest friend, (soon to be) Dr. Travis Haight, has been my ally in the joy and pain of PhD student work. His determination and continued enthusiasm for research and life are an inspiration.

Have you received any scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.

I've been lucky enough to receive several scholarships and awards that have tremendously helped my mental health by allowing me to focus on research and not research AND making money.

During my undergrad, I received the Jason Long Scholarship. In my MSc and PhD, I was awarded a position in the RNA Innovation program and the University of Lethbridge Graduate Research Award. Finally, my students nominated me on two separate occasions for a graduate assistant teaching award.

Are you participating in any extracurricular activities like sports or the arts?

I have had the pleasure of participating in many extracurricular activities, including the Southern Alberta Amateur Radio Society (SAARC), the Lethbridge Fish and Game Association (LFGA), local painting competitions hosted by Showcase Comics, the ACID:BASE and Graduate Student Society of Chemists (GSSC) clubs.

Aligned with ULethbridge’s approach to liberal education, I feel this diverse set of activities has exposed me to skill sets and people that have enhanced me as a person and made me a more well-rounded scientist.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far at ULethbridge?

"You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink." This 12th-century proverb was taught directly to me at ULethbridge. In my first years as an undergrad, I didn't apply myself enough and struggled. However, once I applied myself, I enjoyed the University, my studies and my research more; as a result, I performed better!

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I hope to defend my PhD thesis successfully and apply myself to an industry position in the field of drug discovery and design to help eradicate the next big disease or, at the very least, alleviate the suffering of people with disease.

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

Don't expect that attending the lecture is enough to do well in your classes. Read the material before the lecture, participate in class, and test yourself afterward. Consider this to be your full-time job. Your time and effort will be rewarded in your becoming a more skilled and knowledgeable person for your career and life.

Quick Answers

Top things to do in or around Lethbridge:

  1. Lethbridge has a diverse network of hiking, biking and walking trails around the green spaces and through the coulees. I like to keep fit by running these trails and stairs all over Lethbridge.
  2. I also take great pleasure in Lethbridge's gaming and comic scene between my friends, KaPow (defunct) and Showcase comics.
  3. Lastly, I regularly attend the "Wise Owl" trivia nights at the Owl pub. It's an excuse challenge less applicable knowledge and to meet people in Lethbridge.

Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: Trivia night at the Owl

Favourite place to study: Library, 11th floor, on the bean bags.

About Shining Students

Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.

Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Makay!