Jun 28, 2022

Shadowing Program Mentor Harrison Levine, MSc. Candidate in the Department of Physiology

Harrison Levine

Research: Investigating cerebral blood flow dynamics during hypoxia.

Despite being admittedly naive about what graduate school entailed or how it differed from an undergraduate degree, I contemplated pursuing graduate school throughout my undergraduate studies. During that time, I primarily learned about graduate school from websites and open house events. Notwithstanding, the most informative experience was witnessing graduate research first-hand. For a single semester during my undergraduate degree, I was the mentee in a shadowing program where undergraduate students were partnered with graduate students to observe their research. I was exceptionally fortunate to have a graduate mentor passionate about exceeding the shadowing program’s expectations. During this opportunity, my graduate mentor shared valuable insights about graduate school, how it differs from undergraduate studies, what to seek in a graduate supervisor/lab, and advice on successfully applying to graduate programs. The knowledge attained from this shadowing experience propelled my desire to pursue graduate clinical research at the University of Toronto and the University Health Network.

In February 2022, I had the privilege of mentoring two undergraduate students through the Graduate and Life Sciences Education (GLSE) February Shadowing Program. I eagerly enrolled in this program with the aspiration of reciprocating my previous shadowing experience as a graduate mentor. Unfortunately, COVID-19 presented a unique challenge as undergraduates could not shadow in person. Nevertheless, the undergrads and I maintained an optimistic attitude by developing creative digital solutions. To provide a meaningful virtual experience, I split the shadowing into two discrete components: educational and experiential. For the educational component, I shared a presentation discussing the fundamental physiology behind breathing, the regulation of brain blood flow, and the equipment used for my research. After the presentation, we had a Q&A session discussing complex aspects of my research and its significance and potential clinical applications. For the experiential component, the undergraduate students participated in a three-and-a-half-hour video call witnessing a clinical experiment. The mentees observed a research participant undergo controlled fluctuations in inspired oxygen concentration and visualized changes in brain blood flow using a trans-cranial Doppler and RespirAct. After the experiment, I shared my experiences about graduate school and graduate student life. 

Upon reflection, the shadowing experience was an outstanding success as the undergraduate students were very appreciative and learned about graduate school, student life, and cutting- edge respiratory research. I hope to continue mentoring and empowering future undergraduate students as they consider pursuing a graduate degree.