NAME: Jessie Cunningham 

Contact email: cunn7530@mylaurier.ca

Degree: Master of Science in Integrative Biology

Title of Thesis: The effect of chronic cadmium exposure on repeat swimming performance and recovery in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), brown trout (Salmo trutta) and lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)

Institution and Advisor: Wilfrid Laurier University, Dr. Jim McGeer

Graduation Date: June 2012

Career Goals: I am interested in pursuing a career in risk assessment or fisheries science

Connection with Laurentian SETAC: Member of SETAC and L-SETAC

Accomplishment I am most proud of: Completion of my MSc degree

Most people won’t guess that I: Had never touched a fish until I started in vivo fish research at WLU. In fact, as a child my father bought me a series of pet goldfish, none of which I kept alive beyond about 12 hours. I didn’t tell my supervisor of course.

I can brag that I have rubbed shoulders with: Tony Farrell (UBC) told me (and a room full of people at a conference presentation) that I had some of the best data he had ever seen.

Best laugh I had during my degree: I once very nearly fell into a breading tank at a trout hatchery. It was a little scary at the time, because I could have been pretty severely injured, but having escaped relatively unscathed, I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did on the drive home, thinking of what would have happened if I had actually fallen into that tank.

Best weird science moment: The unsafe use of liquid nitrogen. I won’t elaborate too much for fear of retroactive trouble.

Most memorable conference I have been to during my degree was: I have been lucky enough to attend three SETAC meetings as a graduate student; the most memorable was likely the first meeting I attended (New Orleans, 2009). I had previously only attended small, largely academic conferences, and was amazed by the large size yet inclusive atmosphere of SETAC.

Most memorable philosophical moment I had during my degree: About 6 months into my masters I attended a conference in Vancouver. The lead-up to the conference was incredibly stressful as I was only able to finish analysis about 4 hours before our flight. I incurred more difficulty once I arrived at the conference and at that point I really began to doubt my abilities, and whether or not I belonged in this position. Despite the hectic lead-up the presentation was very well received. Shortly after my presentation I found myself on a beach with my feet in the ocean, with mountains in the distance. Suddenly everything from before seemed so much smaller, and I had this great feeling of knowing I was exactly where I ought to be.

My graduate experience was more than just a degree because: In addition to the wonderful personal experiences I had during this time, I feel as though I learned much more than is reflected by the content of my thesis alone. Having had the opportunity to explore and master a variety of scientific disciplines has proved useful in the continuation of my scientific career.

– Submitted by Oana Birceanu