Student Feedback

“I did two four month-long full-time undergraduate research terms with Dr. Caitlin Howell and those 8 months were some of the most productive and insightful that I have ever had. During my first few months, Dr. Howell took me under her wing and made sure I got the training and guidance that I needed to feel comfortable in the lab. After I became trained and more comfortable in the lab, she gave me the freedom to pursue my research projects and take ownership and make it my own. However, she was always available for advice, questions and even just a quick chat to bounce off ideas. During my second term, Dr. Howell encouraged me and supported me in pursuing a research project that was considerably different from previous work and only in the conceptual phase. She gave me the freedom to take that project and run with it, but like before, she was always available for guidance and help.

Dr. Howell is also extremely motivating and uplifting. I could approach her after experiments that did not work out well and she would show me the positive side and how there were still observations that could be concluded from that experiment or how it was a lesson learnt in setting up experiments. She truly cares for her students and wants to see them succeed. ”  – N. J.

“In my experience, science undergraduate programs focus students into caring too much about assignments, school work. and ultimately grades. There is little focus on the non-technical skills that come with being in research and academia such as organization, communication, and proper-scientific thinking. When I had an internship with Dr. Howell, she demonstrated what it meant to have these skills and be a great scientist, daily. In that, Dr. Howell was able to nurture these non-technical skills within me as her student. I feel that any prospective scientist, researcher, or even academic would benefit from having Dr. Howell as a mentor, as I did.” -E. K.

I worked with Dr. Caitlin Howell for my first work term back in my second year of undergraduate studies in Honour’s Biology. At the time, I had almost no experience working in a lab or with the subject matter I was working with, but regardless of that, Caitlin saw something in me and took me on as a student.

When I met Caitlin face to face on that first day, the thing that struck me the most was how enthusiastic and passionate she was about her work. The second thing I realized was that I was way out of my depth. Even though I knew next to nothing about the subject I was to be working on, I couldn’t help but be drawn into the project because of the enthusiasm that she exuded when she talked. That itself was enough to make me determined to learn as much as I could from her.

Then following 4 months went by so quickly. Being my first “real” job, I was understandably very nervous but Caitlin was always thorough when I had a question, no matter how small or silly the question was. She has this wonderful way of explaining things that makes even the most complicated concepts simple and understandable. Furthermore, she is creative in her thinking process and encourages us, her students to be as well. No matter how outlandish an idea may be, it will always be looked at as a potential solution in a constructively critical manner. In the lab, collaboration was encouraged, if not expected. The members were diverse, from all different backgrounds and this brought new perspectives into each and every project. If you had a knowledge deficit in a certain subject, it was easy to talk to someone else who could tell you about it, and if you did not know who to talk to, Caitlin was always happy to help introduce you to the right person.

Throughout the term, I was given feedback on how I was doing and ways to improve.  I loved that my work was challenging and that the environment pushed me to grow. The lab was first and foremost a safe place to learn and make mistakes. Any problems that came up were calmly discussed and guided through if needed be and I always felt welcome to discuss difficulties I was having. I left my time in the lab with more knowledge that I thought I would have, as well as connections with a group of people I knew I could talk to in the future should I ever need to.

Looking back, I realize how much of an impact that first term had on my undergraduate career. As a fourth year undergraduate near graduation, I have 5 work terms in 3 countries under my belt and am in the process of applying to graduate studies in another research lab. The places I have gone were very much influenced by that very first term: my choices of work and studies factored in the interests and knowledge from the lab and the constructive advice I received when I left, and the opportunities I was given would not have been possible without the skills and connections I made.

My time working in the Howell group shaped me into who I am today, both as a scientist and person, and being supervised by Caitlin gave me a standard of the type of supervisor I wanted to work for and potentially become in the future: an engaging, brilliant and above all, supportive person.” – J. L.

“Working for Dr. Howell was a great experience! She was a supportive supervisor who encouraged curiosity and problem solving. In her group, we contributed to fundamental research and participated in industrial-oriented meetings. These meetings provided us with valuable exposure to the processes involved in bringing our research to real-world applications. The skills I gained on my coop were invaluable and I continue to use them today.” -A. T. 

“Caitlin is an exceptional mentor. Her positive attitude and constant encouragement create a welcoming environment for her students to grow and prosper with confidence. Her attention to detail and creative ideas help push her students to their full potential. Caitlin goes above and beyond to help others, making herself available for students and colleagues both in and out of the lab. She also does a great job transmitting knowledge clearly and concisely, making it easy for those around her to grasp novel concepts. I had a very pleasant experience working with Caitlin who helped me grow a lot as a researcher. She is part of the reason I decided to pursue graduate studies and she has helped get me where I am today.” -C. N.

“I worked with Dr. Howell’s group researching vascularized, self-replenishing surfaces for my senior thesis project. Throughout my project, Dr. Howell supported me while giving me the freedom to experiment (and often fail) with new and interesting methods of building and analyzing self-replenishing surfaces. 

Dr. Howell’s approach to research and collaboration is what really sets her group apart from the rest. She values the importance of her group members reviewing fellow researcher’s work, as well as keeping our eyes open to what other research groups are doing at the University. While each one of Dr. Howell’s group members was working on very different projects, she was able to find ways for each of us to incorporate and learn from each other’s work in order to better our own. She does the same at a University wide level – as she is continually finding pathways to collaborate with research groups to reimagine and repurpose their methods and apply them to our needs. As an example, the backbone of my project was a novel 3D printing method originally developed in a neighboring lab with the purpose to grow cell structures. Dr. Howell hypothesized that this method would also be effective for making vascularized networks to create self-replenishing surfaces, and she was right! This is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that kept my project moving forward, and it was so much fun!” -E. J.

“Working with Caitlin was a very rewarding experience. She helped me maximize my potential by being approachable enough for me to ask questions without hesitation, while also giving me the independence I needed to develop as a researcher. She is a resourceful, versatile mentor invested in the success of each of her students, and treats them as colleagues. It is uncommon to find a professor who is so nurturing without micromanaging, and whom you can truly consider a friend.” -I.

“Dr. Caitlin Howell is an excellent role model for young scientists looking to continue their education in research. During my internship, Caitlin provided me with countless opportunities that allowed me to develop valuable skills both professionally and in the lab.  As a mentor, she involves her students in all aspects of research from project development to publication. This allows students to grow scientifically while participating in research they truly feel passionate about. The confidence I gained while working with Caitlin has greatly impacted my decision to pursue graduate studies, and she will continue to serve as a role model for me a scientist. I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in research to contact Caitlin, and I look forward to the day when our paths cross again.” -S.K.