FRESH FACES II Getting to know the new graduate students in the FoMD

Meet a couple of students beginning their master's degree at the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry this fall.

Ross Neitz - 16 October 2017

James Bell

Graduate student and trainee, member of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute

Why did you come back to the U of A for your master's degree?

For the last nine years I've been running a software development business and I've hired quite a few summer students. I've really enjoyed the process of training them, teaching them the best practices and a lot of stuff they haven't learned yet. That was more enjoyable to me than finding new contracts and doing a lot of the other work I was doing, so I thought I should go back to school and get a PhD so that I can focus on teaching.

What will you be working on?

I'll be studying nerves, doing some nerve health measurements and then doing some machine learning on that to see if I can figure out how to predict if a nerve is not healthy.

What led you to neuroscience?

In my undergrad I took a course-introduction to biomedical instrumentation-and it was really exciting to see a lot of practical applications for my engineering skills. The teacher was also great. He had a lot of great demos and really made the material interesting. The next term I wanted to take a similar course and he was teaching one in computational neuroscience. I took that and just loved it too, seeing how I could apply my computational skills to solving problems in neuroscience. So when I wanted to come back, it seemed like a great way to make use of my background in computing but also apply it in a field that I think is really important, like health care.

What are you most excited about?

I'm excited to learn how to apply a lot of my skills in ways that will impact people's lives directly. I've done work in oil services, and that's an important industry, but I'm more excited to look at research that will directly improve people's quality of life and solve problems that haven't been solved yet.

Julia May

Graduate student, Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology

What do you hope to accomplish here in the master's program?

My main goal is to get experience in as many things as I can. The viruses that I'm making a vaccine for, we might be handling those and it would require stringent biocontainment called level three containment and that's really cool and really exciting for me. I think it would be a really good experience.

You completed your undergraduate at the U of A. Why did you choose to continue on with your master's degree here?

There are a lot of big names here in virology specifically. So I figured if I'm going into that field, this is the best choice from my point of view. I also don't have to move, which is great.

What are you most excited about?

Level three containment is really cool. Part of that is the bragging rights of course. I have to wear special protective clothing like in pandemic movies. I guess another cool thing is that the lab I'm in now is straight up virology-pox viruses and stuff like that. But my project is more of an immunology project. I hope that I can use what I know in immunology and apply it to virology. I am excited about that challenge.