Student Co-op in New York City

Meet Will Grierson

Will is a Microbiology Honours Co-op Student in the Faculty of Science who spent the summer of 2010 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York – Yeshiva University.

How did this come about?

Will was looking for a placement for this 3rd Co-op term.  He wanted a whole new and different experience.  He had spent his two previous, very successful, work terms in Winnipeg, but decided he would like to try an international experience.

He finally settled on trying to find something in New York.  Here’s what he thought:  New York’s a big place; they must have something in my field.

He did some research on the web and sent out some emails, but generally the reply was, ”We’re not hiring any international students.”

One day while Will’s girlfriend was meeting with her professor, Dr. Mazdak Khajehpour, he noticed her "I New York" pen.  Dr. Khajehpour asked: “Have you ever been to New York?  Well, if you want to go, let me know, I can probably get you a summer job there.”

Will and his girlfriend (both good students) took Dr. Khajehpour up on his offer, and after some calls he was able to help them find jobs at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.  (Dr. Khajehpour had done some work at the College.)

However, before they left they were told: “Do our University proud.  I want them to see that our University has quality programs and students.”

The Job in New York

Here’s how Will describes his time in New York:

“The experience at the Albert Einstein Institute was the most enlightening experience of my formal education.  I learned about the inner workings of a research lab, and I had lots of one-to-one time with the Primary Investigator (PI) of the project – an award-winning Harvard alumni.”

“I was treated like a researcher – not just like a student, and I was given as much responsibility as I was willing to take on.” 

At the institute, Will worked on the BLM 10 proteasome activator in yeast.  The work is related to studies on aging and lifespan, and the metabolic interactions related to a number of diseases. He worked with an international group of scientists: Ph.Ds and Post Docs – with only a few undergraduates around.

What was it like be working with Harvard Grads, Ph.Ds and Post Docs?

“It was pretty intimidating at first,” says Will.  “However, once I got into the work, I felt very well equipped to take on the challenges.  My U of M education had served me well, and I was able to take on any and all of the responsibilities that came my way.”

It was an incredibly diverse and international group of researchers, and it was amazing to be able to work with this team.

“I stayed late and worked hard at the lab, because if you get a chance like this, and you’re serious about a scientific career, you have to give it your all,” explains Will.

“It was the fastest summer of my life.  Work came first, and the exploration of New York came second. But I found that in this case, the work was just as much a part of the adventure. Despite some long days at the institute, I managed to see all the things I wanted to see in New York.”

“I went into this work term thinking that I knew what graduate work was all about; from this experience I learned not only what it is, but what it can be.”

“I now have a better idea of what I’m looking for, and I know that you shouldn’t set limits on where you work or what you can do.”

Science isn’t just about what is probable; it’s about what is possible.

What Advice would you give to students?

  • Look for opportunities.  After all what’s the difference between being turned down and not trying? 
  • Give it your all.  The experience has given me a great reference from an internationally renowned researcher.

Make sure you leave a good impression: do yourself and your University proud.

At the Albert Einstein Institute

In the lab