A math student’s passion for working in the health sector

A photo of Laura smilingLaura Bumbulis (she/her), a fifth-year Math student in the Statistics and Combinatorics & Optimization program, talks about the projects she was part of while at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and gives some advice on finding a co-op job. Laura is also the recipient of the 2021 Math Co-op Student of the Year Award!

For her previous two co-op work terms, Laura worked as a Data Developer and Data Scientist. In her most recent co-op work term, she worked as a Bioinformatics Analyst at OICR. During this time, Laura and her team focused on patients with pancreatic cancer, where they examined tumor samples taken from these patients.

“Our goal was to identify mutational patterns and study them, which could help doctors figure out which specific therapies would be best suited to those patients," says Bumbulis. "For example, there are mutational signatures related to UV exposure, or cigarette smoking or certain biological processes. If we can identify those, then that helps us to figure out how the cancer developed and what kind of state it was in when the tumor sample was taken.”

“My specific role was to do whatever tasks and projects I could to help them out with their research. At the beginning of the term, that meant organizing and cleaning up their data source file system and figuring out how to incorporate new software into their data pipeline. Then later in the term, I actually got to do more sciency stuff, which was a bit more out of my comfort zone since I haven't done any biology since grade 11. But it was really cool as well.”

Q: You mentioned that you were not sure what field you wanted to work in before beginning your co-op career. What would you say was the driving factor leading you to now want to work in the health sector?

A: “It was a combination of a few things. Number one, I would say the people that I've had a chance to work with throughout my co-op terms. Not to be cliché, but they're really passionate about helping make the world a better place, so that definitely rubs off on you. Also just personal experiences, and even just reading the news over the last couple of years. It's made me realize that being able to help people is something that's going to be key for any job that I pursue in the future and I think the health sector is a really natural place to do that. So, that's been the motivation.” 

Q: Do you have any advice for someone who may have had similar experiences to you, maybe having some trouble finding a co-op job early on in their co-op career?

A: “One thing I would say is to have faith in the second round and other cycles. There's no shame in not getting a job in the first round. There are lots of people who have that experience and there are still lots of jobs available in the second round and beyond that are as good or even better than what you might find in the first round.”

A photo of Laura smiling during an interview.


In fact, I'm actually glad that I wasn't initially able to find a job in my second co-op term because I ended up working for a fantastic local company called Emmetros Ltd., which was a really great experience. I'm actually working for them part-time while I'm in school this term. So, you never know what kind of great opportunities can come from the later rounds as well.”

Q: How does it feel to win the 2021 Math Co-op Student of the Year Award knowing how much competition there is for the award?

A: “It feels great. I'm really proud and honored to be representing the Math faculty in this way. I know that there are a lot of really talented, intelligent and hardworking people in this university and in this faculty, so just really honored to receive the award.”

Here are some words Laura would like to share about her co-op experience at OICR:

Laura was able to discover her career passion of wanting to help others in the health sector through co-op! Work-integrated learning (WIL) is a great opportunity for you to narrow down your options and figure out your career, helping prepare you for work after graduation. #inspiredWIL

Are you interested in applying for the Co-op Student of the Year Award in your faculty? Submit a nomination form to be considered for the award. You never know what can happen!

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