Katherine’s final homework assignment
Katherine Andrec is among the more than 1,500 students graduating from the Faculty of Science June 15th. We asked Katherine, and nine other pretty remarkable students, to look back at their time at McMaster, what they learned, what they’ll miss and who helped them along the way.
Here’s Katherine’s final homework assignment.
The best advice you got as a student?
Learn to be okay with not doing as well as you expect and then learn from your mistakes to improve and work your way up to your goals. I remember very clearly during Welcome Week listening to Dr. Michelle Cadieux addressing the incoming group of first years and explaining how McMaster takes the top percentage of high-performing high school students and has to re-distribute and spread out grades from those top students again. This would likely mean that the effort required to get 90%+ in high school would then likely achieve a 70-80%. She also explained how this can be startling to someone who is always used to achieving 90+ but it is completely normal and means you are doing well. The steep learning curve is a learning opportunity and you need to allow yourself time to adjust to new expectations.
The best advice you’d give to a first-year student?
Organization and scheduling are going to be your best friend! Being on your own for the first time can be both scary and exciting, but with the additional of large class sizes in first year, there is no one but you to keep you on top and caught up on school work and other responsibilities. It is a good idea to schedule out your week for the periods of work, relaxation, and sleep as well as what tasks/assignments need to be completed. In addition, it is super helpful to reflect at the end of each week. What worked? What didn’t work? Learning how to reflect and learn from mistakes and accomplishments will be the most helpful to move forward!
The professors who pushed you the hardest and challenged you to aim higher?
Dr. Deda Gillespie and Dr. Katrina Choe.
The unsung heroes who went above and beyond for you at McMaster?
Both my Ph.D student thesis supervisors – Katy Celina Sandoval and Aishwarya Patwardhan. They provided me with so much support both academically and emotionally throughout the two years I worked with the Choe Lab and were the best mentors I could have ever hoped for.
The one thing you never got around to doing?
Attending a sports event or pep rally that boosts school spirit!
The one thing you’ll miss the most about McMaster?
The amazing group of people I met through my two years working in the Choe Lab. Everyone was very welcoming and supportive, and we all celebrated each other’s accomplishments together and were there to boost each other up when it was needed as well.
The most important thing you learned in the classroom?
How to work effectively in a group, whether it was one or two people or up to six groupmates.
The most important thing you learned outside the classroom?
Just how important keeping a proper sleep schedule is and how important it is to find an outlet for stress.
Your best day as a Mac student?
The last day of exams in first year. It was an amazing day of reflection and accomplishment for both me and the friends I had made throughout the year!
The one thing you know now that you didn’t know on your first day at McMaster?
Just how important is it to advocate for yourself and make an effort to actively look for opportunities. Before university, it was more common for me to be presented with opportunities, however, in such a large community full of amazing and accomplished individuals at McMaster, you have to actively search for opportunities, learn how to present yourself, and put in the time and effort required to get any sort of position, award, project, or to become any kind of team member.
A moment that mattered to you at Mac?
When a professor I really looked up to said they saw the potential in me to continue and succeed in academia and that stuck with me and meant so much coming from someone so accomplished and who I admired so much.
How was it being a student at Mac during the pandemic?
It was made much easier by the support from my classmates and professors in the department. Surprisingly, during the lockdown is when I met most of my classmates. In an effort to stay connected, virtual meet-ups and group chats were amazing for meeting people and helping keep each other motivated! The professors I had were also very accommodating and made themselves very easily accessible to help provide extra support. With some of my professors, such as Dr. Daniel Goldreich, you could really tell the amount of effort they put into their courses to give their students a great experience from home!
Master’s degree in biology at York University.
Katherine’s McMaster highlight reel:
- President’s Award and Book Prize in Physics and Mathematics in first year
- Vernon Oliver Stong Graduate Scholarship in Science
- Volunteer with Science FUNdamentals, a registered charity and student group aiming to engage elementary school students in STEM activities. I worked with a kindergarten class to complete interactive STEM-related classroom visits and demonstrations.
- Completed my fourth and final year with a perfect 12.0 average (average just for that year).