We are pleased to have Irfani Ausri as our graduate student interviewee! We recently caught up with her to see what she's working on and to get advice for other grad students. Thanks Irfani!

What program are you in and when did you start it?

I am a PhD Candidate in Chemistry/Nano and I started as a Masters student in Fall 2016. My BSc is from McGill in Physiology.

When did you know that you wanted to do graduate school?

The jobs you can apply for with a BSc with no Co-op are very limited but I wasn't too interested in getting a graduate degree until four months after I graduated from undergraduate. After graduation, I was applying for various jobs to see what I could get. I realized then that none of the jobs I applied for excited me. I wanted to do something more than just a job. That's when my interest in public health and technological innovations peaked. When I got an offer for my current research, I took it even though I had other job leads!

How did you find your supervisor?

I was looking around for a professor who does research on biosensors and I stumbled upon Dr. Tang’s work

What is your research on?

The surface chemistry of carbon nanotubes to optimize their biosensor applications. I am exploring different methods to improve the sensitivity and specificity of the CNT based sensors.

How did you become interested in your research?

I have an intensive biomedical background and thought I would go into the medical or public health field. Upon further investigation, I realized that my interest is more aligned with the prevention stage of public health through technological innovations. That’s when I discovered that Nanotechnology was the answer.

What is the coolest thing about your research?

It’s hard to really pin point what is the coolest thing about my research. I just know that I come to work everyday excited that I’m working toward a goal that can save many people’s lives. And of course, science is cool!

Tell us something we might not know (related to your research)?

Currently, there are no commercially available CNT-based biosensors in the market and our group is working towards it!

Why did you choose UW for graduate school?

One of the questions that I’ve always had about academia is how the academic research is transferred to real-life application. Since my previous lab experiences have always been in the biological field where substantial results that can be applied to the society may take years or decades to achieve, I wanted to work where I can still be exposed to the academic-to-society transfer on a daily basis even if my own research is going slow. Therefore, I decided that UW’s high entrepreneurial spirit combined with its academic research is the perfect fit!

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

  • Do not loose hope when things gets rough
  • Expose yourself to other fields to expand your mindset. Sometimes other fields may inspire you in ways you can’t image
  • Although it’s hard, give your brain a rest once in a while
  • Enjoy the ride!

What advice do you have for potential graduate students?

  • Make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into. Research is definitely not for everyone.
  • Pick a field/topic that makes you excited to go to work every morning

What's a personal challenge you've faced as a graduate student?

Managing my time so that I don’t burn out was a significant challenge in the early months of my research career. There was a time where I did burn out and since then I’ve learned to manage my time better. I also had problems with keeping myself busy with activities not related to my research. I was very active in various organizations in undergraduate and decided to decrease my involvement in them in graduate school. However, I realized that it’s important for me to contribute to society in other ways and so I’ve started to get involved in organizations again.

What's a career-related challenge you've faced as a graduate student?

The whole notion of publish or perish in academia is real. We are constantly pressured to be productive so that we can generate publishable results. So, it’s very discouraging when you find yourself lost and stuck with horrible data. We are also encouraged to think of and defend our own ideas but there are times where you can’t help but doubt yourself. It’s all a constant struggle but once everything falls into place, you can’t help but grin from ear to ear.

What is your favourite thing about Waterloo (the city)?

I love that it’s not as hectic as Toronto but not as quiet as Montreal’s West Island.

What is the best place to get food near/on campus?

Snacks at Williams and meals at Seoul soul

What do you like to do when you're not doing research?

I love to eat chocolate, sing along to musicals by myself, and spend quality time with family and friends.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’ve met some amazing WIN staff, colleagues and professors who are very supportive and I am very thankful to have met them.