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All courses for every first-year Science student will be delivered online this fall. A limited number of students in their second, third and fourth years will return to campus for part of the semester.

McMaster Science Graduate Students Association President Rhea Desai

Rhea DesaiRhea Desai is a first-year Ph.D student in the Department of Biology.  Her research is in the field of radiation biology and focuses specifically on low-dose radiation effects on humans and animals.  She first started at Mac as and undergrad in 2014 where she completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology.  At McMaster, she grew to love scientific research and so after her undergrad she stayed at Mac for graduate school. The McMaster Science Graduate Students Association (SciGSA) connects Science graduate students with other graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni and potential employers. The association hosts events throughout the year to help graduate students develop academically, professionally and socially.

Why you got involved with the McMaster Science Graduate Student Association?
I got involved in 2019 as the Communications Officer because  I always love being a part of a team.  Specifically, by joining the SciGSA I hoped to work towards creating an increasingly diverse and equitable environment for students to enjoy. Graduate school can be a bit lonelier compared to undergrad so I felt joining the SciGSA was a great way to connect with other grad students while also working together to create meaningful and enjoyable events.  So far it has been a great experience alongside a wonderful team!

What's your role involve as President of SciGSA?
My role predominantly consists of overseeing many of our day-to-day operations as well as the event programming we offer. Additionally, the SciGSA has a lot of links with other groups and offices on campus so regularly meeting with these groups ensures our programming is reflective of what the student body wants and needs.

How has the pandemic impacted your plans?
In terms of academic life, being in a research based program is not ideal when it comes to a “work from home” lifestyle.  Luckily, I was able to spend this time away from the lab to delve deeper into reading and writing.  It’s nice to be back in the lab in some capacity but  I’ll miss regularly chatting with lab mates!
The SciGSA had many plans for the school year which have had to be shifted online due to the pandemic.  Much of our programming is very social in order to give students a place to relax and have fun after a long day’s work. For this reason we are currently trying to develop events which maintain the social aspect safely online.  The SciGSA team has done an awesome job so far in moving our “Exploring Hamilton Scavenger Hunt” online for students to try out at home!  Check us out on social media @McMasterSciGSA !

What challenges are grad students facing because of the pandemic?
Grad students are now having to work totally different schedules in order to maintain social distancing and safe working conditions.  This is definitely a challenge in scheduling lab work so not to bump into other lab mates.  In the time away from lab, working from home isn’t always a suitable option for students therefore making productivity difficult.  Additionally, with many grad students holding teaching assistant positions, navigating the online classroom environment can be a challenge.  From organizing courses into a suitable online format to receiving student questions more often than normal, being a TA during the pandemic is just one of the challenges grad students are facing right now!
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