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Graduate Studies

Information and resources for current HPI trainees 

and prospective students interested in graduate studies in HPI.

HPI trainees

Prospective Students

As an HPI graduate student or postdoc, you will be exposed to a variety of research and laboratory experiences in a multidisciplinary environment with potential to be placed in workplace settings outside of the University of Calgary.  This program will help provide career choices in academia, industry or entrepreneurial (science with a business twist) pathways.

To apply for graduate studies, contact the HPI Principal Investigator that you are interested in doing research with.

Testimonials from past HPI trainees

"From May 2013 to March 2018, I was delighted with the opportunity to be a trainee at the HPI program. In the beginning of my training at the HPI, it was clear that my English would need a lot of polishing. However, given spectacular mentoring abilities of the directors in the program, which includes my supervisor Dr. Derek McKay, they recognized potential in me, despite my clear limitations in expertise in parasitology-directed research. Since the beginning, I made it clear to them that my goal was to have my own laboratory in Canada. Given the competitive nature of securing an Assistant Professorship I heard from many people that this goal would be too hard, if not impossible to achieve. However, the people involved in the program did not care about the obstacles that I could face – a non-Canadian with language limitations – they simply recognized and encouraged this career choice and worked to help me in this mission.  Important to note, other trainees with other career aspiration also found in the program similar support. The HPI provided us several workshops about writing proposals, making excellent presentations, managing projects, and also about life balance. The program also supported me and others with stipends and to travel across Canada and internationally to participate in conferences, to present our research and to build important network. The HPI directors also knew that leadership would be an important experience to add to our CV. The program provided us opportunities to participate in organizing events, such as community outreach and seminars and also to manage social media. Summarizing my own story, HPI accepted me as a PDF with no experience in parasitology, and with the limitations I cited above, and mentored me to build my CV. HPI was outstanding – academically, professional skills, work-life balance, dedication – and I was delighted to accept a position as an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Parasitology at McGill University, Montreal Canada, effective July 2018.  In many ways I arrived in HPI 5 years ago barely being able to spell ‘parasite’ and now I am establishing my independent research program in applied parasitology.  I recognize that this would not have been possible without the support and guidance of an outstanding program that had my best interests in mind."

"Arriving from Brazil in 2013 as a post-doctoral fellow, I had no idea how influential the HPI program would be on my career.  With no experience in parasitology, five years later I have been offered an Assistant Professorship at the Institute of Parasitology at McGill University, Montreal.  Securing this position was, in no small part, facilitated by the skills I obtained in the HPI training program: I took every workshop offered, from CV preparation to leadership skills to vocal training by a drama teacher!  The HPI program is unique; the faculty members are truly invested in the career advancement of the trainees, providing opportunities that go far beyond standard graduate education.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this outstanding training and mentoring program."

"It is a pleasure to summarize in some sentences the importance of a group which has done one of a kind program in the world and that after 10 months it went on to have a great significance for me. I must say that I am very appreciative and feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be involved in the Host-Parasite Interactions group.  Basically, this initiative has sharpened my sense of seeing the science as a whole. It has given me a broad understanding of parasitic studies and that it is possible to join expert scientists from Veterinary Medicine, Science, Medicine, Business and Environmental Design to get a better comprehension of the most varied species and ecological aspects. It deals with the immunology as it is totally related to the epidemiology, which in turns is connected to the environmental that is not separated in molecular biology and bioinformatics, which is fantastic. I am proud to be a part of the group especially because it is not only focused to the local or some specific regional problems, but also deals with world-wide challenges.   I have been exposed to the highest technology in the globe regarding the diagnoses of nematodes infections. Moreover, even specific, this studies will be reflected in many fields of the science, contributing in many aspects for a better life in the society, which claims for our advancements.   Besides research, this experience has been very fun too. I have got a chance to interact with different people from many different parts of the world. Together, we have developed interpersonal relationships not only among the peers but also members of the community via engagement events. Furthermore, the workshops, boot camp and social events have been great and unique experiences, that undoubtedly helped a lot.   In conclusion, after the multidisciplinary interaction and the special training provided by the program, I feel more confident and adaptable to the path that I choose to follow whether that be either in academia, industry or government agencies, locally or internationally. Thank you Dr. Gilleard, Teresa and HPI peers!"

A Letter of Thanks to HPI

"HPI has directly benefited me and allowed to begin building the career I am in now. The support and opportunities provided me through participation in the HPI to learn and practice many forms of science communication was invaluable. Without this experience I can honestly say I would not have had the knowledge, contacts or confidence to launch myself as a freelance writer and communicator

As I make my way out of academia after completing my Ph.D., I am extremely thankful that I was able to work as part of the Host Parasite Interactions (HPI) group. Why? Opportunity and encouragement. The HPI group gave me the opportunity to explore career paths outside of academia, along with the support and encouragement to actually test these waters.

When I started my graduate studies journey I was fairly confident that I was not going to pursue academia as a career path, but if not academia than what? Talking with many of my fellow grad students I soon realized that I was not alone in having little clue what other career options where available. I also soon realized that this was a huge source of stress for many students, which only got worse as we continued to hear about the shrinking availability of tenure track positions combined with an increasing number of Ph.D., graduates, enter the HPI program.

One of the tenants of the HPI program is preparing students for careers outside of academia; to my knowledge this one of the few graduate student organizations that actually emphasizes this. For me science writing and communication was the path I found through HPI. For as long as I can remember I have been interested in science and was a regular reader of science magazines like Discover and Scientific American. However, I never considered science communication as a career path until I helped organize and attend a career day supported by HPI. Here I heard speakers who had successfully made science communication a part of their career after academia. After this seed was planted HPI gave me another opportunity to nurture this budding aspiration even further with a volunteer position on the Trainee Operations Committee as the lead on the HPI Communications portfolio.

I have to specifically thank HPI Project Manager Teresa Emmett who, aside from being the glue that keeps HPI up and running, guides the TOC and is essential in turning their ideas into realities. Teresa was receptive to all my ideas, from organizing a media training workshop to securing funding to attend the Beakerhead Science Communication School at the prestigious Banff Centre in the Rocky Mountains. Along with the numerous other outreach activities I participated in with HPI these opportunities have increased my network in this field, inspired me to pursue this dream and given valuable experience and skills for my resume. None of this would have been possible without the opportunity and encouragement from Teresa and all of the HPI faculty members and all the great organizations the fund HPI. To the funders I would say, your money is being well spent.

Since my graduation earlier this year, I am fully committed to pursuing the science communications career and have begun with expanding my popular science writing portfolio, something that began in my HPI days writing blogs and posts for the website. While it has not been easy to make this transition, I have confidence and a solid head start due to my time with HPI. I wholeheartedly endorse the HPI program for any student looking to join a parasitology focused graduate program. From world class research to exciting new career opportunities the HPI program offers an amazing community of individuals working to together to provide opportunity and encouragement for their students in all aspects of graduate student life.

Thank you HPI!! I hope to one day come back for a career event and inspire the next group of trainees.”

"Being part of the Host-Parasite Interactions Group has been a huge supplement to my PhD studies. The group is incredibly collegial, offering the opportunity to participate in their seminar series, social events, and a wide variety of training workshops to develop skills both inside and outside academia. The HPI group is also involved in multiple outstanding community outreach projects, including several very successful, highly interactive exhibits at the Telus Spark Center in Calgary. The support, mentorship, and training I’ve received from being a part of this group I am certain has played a role in my success as a PhD student in terms of generating publications, and securing competitive external funding for my PhD from provincial (AIHS) and federal (CIHR) agencies. Not only that, the HPI ensures I have continued support from a large network for my future post-doctoral studies on parasites: this was highlighted as a huge benefit by reviewers of my AIHS postdoctoral fellowship application, and no doubt played a role in my application being successful. As I start a new post-doctoral project with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, I know I can rely on continued mentorship and support from the HPI group."

“NSERC CREATE HPI scholarship has allowed me to embark on a relatively new area of research. It gave me the opportunity to start research in the field of microbiota and to develop a novel model system for the study of microbiota-mediated functional changes in the gut. I am very grateful to my supervisor and NSERC CREATE HPI program for the excellent training environment provided to me.”

“HPI has helped me by opening up opportunities to be involved with student leadership, especially organizing regular events for the group.  I would also say that the project management workshop has been one of the most broadly applicable and useful seminars I've ever taken.  The whole thing is also a lot of fun!  I would say that I'm actually closer to the people from HPI than I was the people in my "home" research group.”

“After finishing my MSc Degree in 2014, I started medical school. The HPI program was vitally important for me to develop skills in management, professional development, scholarly endeavours, and in promotion of sciences in the lay public. These skills have been invaluable as I continue my ongoing training to become a Family Physician. In addition to developing skills in designing and carrying out experiments, I have learned so many soft skills in communication, team building and leadership, collaborative efforts which are crucial to the field of health sciences and innovation. Thank you NSERC CREATE for providing such a brilliant environment for developing these skills! 

NSERC CREATE HPI has been one of the most important experiences during my graduate training. It allowed for me to become a better scientist, and a better professional with broader interests. I am very thankful for the great leadership and training this program provided me.”

“The student-run seminar series was extremely beneficial at creating and facilitating discussion between parasitologists with diverse technical expertise.”

“During my time as a graduate student in the NSERC CREATE HPI program, I had opportunities to participate in a variety of training courses that provided me with the tools to be a successful student. Topics of these courses included stress management, giving effective presentations, project management, and team building. Through this program, I was also able to take part in research seminars, student seminars, team-building events, and networking opportunities. This was an incredible opportunity to work with an awesome group of people and to gain a fundamental skill-set that I continue to use in my career and everyday life.

NSERC CREATE HPI has provided me with some excellent opportunities (workshops, seminars and community activities) that have improved my skill set and strengthened my CV.”

“My sixteen months in Dr. Wasmuth's lab as a member of the NSERC CREATE HPI program led me from being an undergraduate with scant research experience, to one who completed two projects, one of which will be published as a first-author paper in Bioinformatics. My experience through this program was instrumental in pushing me to pursue graduate school at the University of Toronto.”

“The Host-Parasite Interactions program has been an instrumental aspect of my PhD. It provided me with numerous and useful networking opportunities, as well as countless opportunities to participate in community engagement. It has provided me with opportunities to be both a leader and a teacher, which I would not have received otherwise. HPI provided an environment in which to network and collaborate, creating an atmosphere to connect with other graduate students in both a professional and personal manner. The countless workshops and communal activities (such as the annual curling event and HPI Bootcamp) provided numerous opportunities for professional development, and exposure to other areas of parasitology besides my particular area of research.  This has lead to an enriching and rewarding graduate student experience.”

“Involvement and training through the Host-Parasite Interactions (HPI) group has enriched all facets of my graduate school experience. The program enriched my graduate CV and enabled me to secure further funding as a MSc student and focus funds on the design and execution of experiments. In addition to making me a stronger candidate when applying for funding, it also made me stand out as an applicant for professional school. The HPI program was invaluable in my graduate training as it facilitated funding for conferences, and a trip to Ethiopia where we further developed our skills as instructors in a “teach the teachers” approach as part of a global outreach program with the UofC. HPI also gave me a sense of community. With their numerous seminar series, social events, and critically the annual boot camp in Kananaskis, the program set me up with ~60 new friends that I never would have met without involvement in HPI. For these reasons and more, I cannot recommend the program enough!”

"I was a part of the Host-Parasite Interactions program during my master's at the University of Calgary from September 2014 to December 2016. As a trainee, I got the opportunity to acquire skills that included public speaking in on-going research seminar series, enhancing leadership qualities by participating in outreach activities and events and widening my knowledge in the field of host and parasite interactions. The program emphasized trainees to attend the workshops that focus on matters important in transitioning from inside to outside of the academia. Such workshops can be considered as one of the important segments in HPI program, which other training programs generally lack in, for the overall development of young researchers. I also got various chances to visit some of the prestigious institutes like McGill University in Montreal, the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada and the Washington University at St. Louis, in the USA to attend renowned conferences, symposiums, and workshops that have been significant in my graduate student-life. Meeting with brilliant minds in research and listening to their scientific talks were the most exciting things during these trips. I am highly grateful to the mentors especially my supervisors, Dr James Wasmuth and Dr Derek McKay who showed their support and provided their valuable guidance that helped me to excel in my research. I am thankful to the program coordinator, Teresa Emmett in keeping all of us, the trainees and the mentors well-informed of all the events that were about to take place, well in-advance and for always being there for smooth accomplishments. I thank NSERC CREATE HPI program for providing me with an outstanding training environment

I have been a part of Host-Parasite Interaction program during the course of my masters degree. During the time, I got the chance to acquire skills that enhance leadership qualities and organizational behavior in one’s career. Attending the workshops that focus on matters important in transitioning from inside to outside of the academia were one of the important things that contributes to the overall development of a researcher. I also got a chance to visit some prestigious conferences, symposiums, and events that have been significant during my research work. I am thankful to the mentors at NSERC CREATE HPI for providing an outstanding training environment during my graduate life."

“The NSERC CREATE Host-Parasite Interactions (HPI) has been a huge boon to my graduate career, and has allowed me to grow as both an individual and a scientist. This program provided leadership roles and particularly, the chance to get involved in community outreach events, something I discovered a passion for. Community outreach opportunities are severely lacking in other areas available to graduate students, and were a strong component of the HPI program. The workshops, seminars, and annual weekend boot camp offered in the program also allowed for the development of a unique sense of community and encouraged subsequent collaborations between labs and research areas which would otherwise be kept separate. As well as the community developed in the program, the available professional development workshops provided insights into non-academia career paths and skill sets widely applicable across any career. Further to this, this program also provided trainees with travel support, and I myself had the opportunity to travel to a relevant international conference, as well as to teach molecular biology in Ethiopia. Overall, the HPI program has greatly enriched my graduate experience and I hope to see it continue to aid in the development of future scientific leaders.”

“As I first embarked on my PhD journey, I was fortunate to be funded by the NSERC CREATE HPI in 2012 and I was able to continue to renew this funding until 2016. Despite that, I have been with the HPI program for 5 years and all I can say is that this program has made my PhD experience that more enjoyable and rewarding. Being a student focused primarily on getting good grades in my courses and exceling in my research, I didn’t realize how much I could get involved with extracurricular activities in graduate school. The HPI program really changed my mindset and I learned that I can do so much more, and really the limitation is myself and how much I am willing to do. As my supervisor had said to me, “you take charge of your own education and what you get is what you put in”. These words really stuck with me throughout the years and I knew that I wanted the most from my PhD. Hence, I took the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and tried to get more involved with the HPI program.  My experience on The Operations Committee has given me the opportunity to become a leader and I’ve gained so much insight into what makes a good leader including being able to delegate tasks, being confident, being persistent, and being committed. The Telus Spark Science Centre Adults Only Night and several high school classroom visits to talk about parasites have really allowed me to communicate science in a simple manner without using too much jargon. I’ve learned that communication and teamwork is key in all respects. The professional development workshops have really gotten me to think twice about how I can do a better job at networking or to present myself at an interview. Additionally, HPI has also funded a lot of my travel to international conferences, where I have gotten the chance to network with experts in my field of study and to receive feedback for future directions in my research. The trainee and guest seminar speakers have really increased my knowledge of parasitology as it relates to bioinformatics, veterinary medicine, ecology, and to the cellular details of immunology. I was also awarded the 2016 Outstanding Contribution to HPI Award, which I am really grateful for. This speaks to how invaluable the HPI program is because I want to partake in the program’s activities and I seek to learn more. Lastly, I am very thankful to my supervisor and NSERC CREATE HPI program for the amazing training environment. I am confident that the skills I learned during my PhD will be beneficial to my future career and I can look back at this as being one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.”

“I’m so thankful for the HPI experience. HPI provided me with professional development experiences that I would never have experienced in my normal grad program. Additionally, as a member of the TOC for a number of years I gained valuable leadership experience which helped me obtain numerous external funding awards to support my salary during my PhD research. HPI provided a network of parasitologists from across Alberta, and through its conferences and bootcamps enabled me to meet other researchers from across Canada. This network continues to provide support for research collaborations, and I have little doubt will greatly aid me after graduation in finding a postdoctoral fellowship. I am so very thankful that I was able to be involved with HPI as a graduate student.”

“The HPI played an important role during the entirety of my PhD studies. Far more than several labs with a common research area, the HPI fostered personal and professional collaborations to a level I've not seen before; the contacts I made during my degree led to my current postdoc position, and provided me with several other offers. Further, it provided students and postdocs with a wide variety of career training, and continually exposed us to successful scientists from academia, industry, communication, and the government. Without question the HPI provided me with far more support and opportunities than my own department, and I owe much of where I am today to the program.”

“As a PhD student at the University of Calgary, I feel privileged to be a part of the host parasite interactions group as it has given me the opportunity to attend host parasite related seminars, career building workshops, community engagement events and social events organized by the HPI group. Engaging with people who work on different aspects of host parasite interactions has helped me immensely to widen the boundaries of my knowledge which keeps on growing. Career workshops like “writing winning proposals, breaking the bias cycle in science and stress management workshops along with some of our highly successful community engagement events has not only helped me to build leadership skills but also to learn how to have a work-life balance and to face challenges. I am certain that this mentorship I receive from the host parasite interactions group will continue to have a huge positive influence on my graduate studies and my future career. I thank my supervisor for letting me be a part of this amazing intellectual group!”

“The HPI program consistently provided many opportunities for collaboration, education, and community engagement over the course of my graduate degree and the benefits will continue to be felt in the years after my graduation.”  “My time here being a part of HPI as a PhD student has been one of the best parts of being at the University of Calgary. As doctoral degrees can often be an isolated experience, the intellectual and social community that HPI has offered us has been extremely rewarding. Communication with peers outside your immediate lab group is one of the most important aspects of development for a graduate student, and the Host-Parasite Interactions program has facilitated this better than any other university organization that I have experienced. The program’s focus on preparing students to have an applicable and adaptable toolset upon graduation is exceptional, and much needed in today’s post-graduation environment. The volunteer opportunities and workshops consistently made available by HPI have also given myself an array of experiences, and even certifications, that certainly would not have been possible if not for the program. So, for this I am extremely grateful that the program was in operation for my time here as a student!"

"HPI helped me explore other research in parasitology and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the immune systems function in infection."

"The HPI program offered me several professional development opportunities to develop transferrable skills, in the form of courses and outreach activities. They also provided financial support so that I could present my work at conferences." 

"Involvement in the HPI program was of incalculable benefit for me in my career up to this point giving me so many skills I continue to use both in my medical training and research involvement."

“I greatly benefitted from HPI Program support during my graduate studies in multiple instances such as travel awards and professional development opportunities, including an international teaching assistantship under the Ethiopia-University of Calgary Global Health collaboration.”

“NSERC CREATE HPI program has helped me immensely in my academic and professional career. The wide range of workshops and professional development activities have strengthened my technical and interpersonal skills, making me well prepared to pursue a professional career in science and research. I am very thankful to the HPI program.”

"I spent two summers doing research in Dr. Wasmuth’s lab with the help of NSERC CREATE HPI studentships. The program gave me the opportunity to learn and develop skills in genomics and bioinformatics. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to attend joint lab meetings, HPI Research Seminars and HPI workshops. The CREATE HPI program provided me a valuable and unique learning experience as an undergraduate student."

"Having the opportunity to participate in world class scientific research has dramatically improved my career by teaching me how to think critically, problem solve, and demonstrate for graduate school applications and industry interviews I have the experience required to be a valuable team member." 

"I always aspired to obtain a professor position in Academia. I strongly believe that the Host-Parasite Interaction program has helped me to achieve this professional goal by contributing to my return in France at the Institute of Research of Digestive Health (Toulouse, France)." 

"Host-Parasite Interactions helped me develop my scientific and professional skills to an extent that would have been impossible in the vast majority of graduate school programs."

"Funding from the NSERC CREATE HPI program gave me the opportunity to attend international conferences, meet and learn from the professionals in my field, as well as network with other scientific colleagues in the Alberta host-parasite community."

"Variety of different professional oriented workshops provided by HPI, as well as obtained skills while organizing HPI seminars, are extremely useful for Sessional instructor position. It not only helps with technical support during the lectures, but also help for communication with students. Thank you!"

"The HPI program was great for my academic formation as it bridged interactions among parasitologists, and promoted workshops and volunteering opportunities that exposed us to the non-academic environment. As a young faculty myself, I would like my students to have similar opportunities."