Graduate Student Life

Graduate studies in the department of chemistry brings you together with not only an exceptional research faculty and state-of-the-art research facilities, but also a student body from all over the world. Our tri-campus department spans the cities of Toronto, Scarborough and Mississauga, each campus residing in their own vibrant and diverse urban neighbourhoods.

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If there is a specific topic you are needing information but is not addressed here, please contact the Graduate Office.

Meet Some of our Students

Below you can hear from some of our students share their thoughts on what graduate life is like at U of T.


Wing Law

When I was still an undergraduate student at McMaster University, I was never outgoing. I spent most of my time in the library with my friends. I felt like I missed out on what mac and Hamilton had to offer and I vouched to be different when I began my graduate studies. I looked into various schools and decided that UofT was the best choice for me. With its outstanding facilities and renowned researchers, UofT has always been the hub of scientific advancement and discovery in Canada. This meant I would have access to state-of-the-art instruments and the ability to work with the brightest mind in our graduate department. The department of chemistry is also extremely welcoming and supportive. I was, and still am, in awe of the effort the department and ChemClub put in to ensure the grad life at UofT is as worthwhile as the research conducted here. After several emails and in-person meetings with Prof. Deborah Zamble about her research, I joined the Zamble lab and began my quest to characterize the specific nickel transporter proteins in bacteria in 2017.

Toronto is truly a place of potential and personal growth. I broke free from my cocoon of comfort and took on challenges I wouldn’t even consider doing as an undergraduate. Apart from my research and school life, I have become more outgoing. I took on more responsibilities, and even joined ChemClub (Chemistry Graduate Students’ Union). As a member of ChemClub, you are given the opportunity to interact with people in the department, often in different disciplines of chemistry. You would be surprised how beneficial it is to know people with different chemistry backgrounds! The department of chemistry is truly a huge family and everyone is extremely supportive.

On the weekends, I tend to spend my time exploring the city, hanging out with friends, and discovering new coffee shops around the block. Toronto never ceases to amaze me. I am currently sharing a condo apartment with my friend from Mac, who is also pursuing his Ph.D. at UofT, albeit in a different department. We live in the city core, roughly a 30 min walk from Lash Miller. It may be far, but nothing a podcast or two won’t solve.

I normally spend around $1600 a month while the monthly stipend we receive after tuition is around $1800. Rest assured you won’t be living lavishly as a graduate student in the city, but this is still a one-of-a-kind experience you wouldn’t get anywhere else.


Here is an estimated monthly budget:

Rent/Utilities $ 1200
Phone/Internet $ 80
Groceries $ 200
Entertainment $ 100


Elyse Hudson

Elyse Hudson

I am in my second year PhD with Prof. Andrew Beharry at the Mississauga satellite of the University of Toronto. I joined in 2021 after finishing my honours specialization in chemistry at University of Western Ontario where I focused on both proteins and peptides. In Prof. Beharry’s laboratory, I’m working on the synthesis of small, fluorescent molecules as tools for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. 

When considering graduate school, I found that it was most important to primarily think of the research being done by the supervisor as that is the main focus of your time during graduate school. I loved the research Prof. Beharry was doing and the opportunities that UofT offers, so being at a satellite did not impact my decision at all! 

The Mississauga campus is filled with both nature and modern buildings, giving the best of both worlds. Going for a short walk around the university property is a great way to decompress while seeing the wildlife. If you have the chance, I would really recommend visiting the beautiful campus. 

We also have tons of great amenities here, like a large gym with a swimming pool, a graduate student lounge, and the shuttle bus. Going to UTSG from UTM is not a problem because a shuttle bus between the two campuses is provided, with the cost included in your tuition! It runs everyday of the week, starting in the morning and ending late at night, so it is a great way to get downtown for class, seminars, and entertainment. Another amazing perk included in tuition is the MiWay bus pass; several bus routes go to campus, making transit very convenient way to get around the city without a car. 

A huge incentive of UTM is the several student organizations available to graduate students! I am an executive member on CPS-GSA, the chemistry physical sciences graduate student alliance. We run plenty of events throughout the year including pub nights, monthly donuts, and Pilates classes, all of which act as great ways to network and stay in touch with peers within our large department. I have really enjoyed getting to know students in different scientific disciplines than myself and always look forward to catching up at events. 

Mississauga also has loads to offer, outside of UTM. The main shopping mall, Square One, has some fantastic restaurants, pop-up stores, and tons of food festivals. The city hall free events, including live music performances, ice skating, and farmers markets. My favourite place to go is Port Credit, a cute lakeshore neighbourhood with great food, drinks, and views, that is easily accessible by MiWay. I really enjoy living in Mississauga because I has everything I would want in a city. Plus, when I feel like going downtown, the trip to Toronto only takes 30 minutes by GOTrain.

I chose to live alone in an apartment as it made me feel safer with COVID-19. However, it does make my monthly expenses a bit higher. For me, the peace of mind and freedom is definitely worth it! My commute to campus is about 20-25 minutes by bus but a friend lives nearby so the ride together feels much shorter. I love where I live but my second option would be Graduate Housing at UTM. Join the waitlist early to get your best shot at an apartment on campus! 

Here is how I typically spend money each month:

Rent $ 1800
Utilities and Food $ 125
Entertainment $ 100

Ethan Lee

Ethan Lee

I did my undergraduate degree in chemistry at UBC and got the chance to work in several different research groups, one of which was the Straus Group. While there, I worked on characterizing antimicrobial peptides using several biological methods. I decided to join the Nitz Group at UTSG for a master’s degree, where I synthesized enzyme inhibitors, and then later joined the Rauscher Group at UTM for a PhD. As a part of the Rauscher Group, I run molecular dynamics simulations on intrinsically disordered peptides to determine their dynamics on an atomistic scale.

I’ve had the opportunity to experience UofT at two different campuses, and they both have their unique advantages. UTSG gives you the opportunity to live in the heart of the city with access to the world-class cultural experience that Toronto is known for. The UTM campus is a big contrast – it’s much quieter and more secluded, and the nature around the campus provides a calm and peaceful atmosphere.

All students are given access to all facilities, no matter which campus you are attached to. I continue to live downtown, have office spaces at both the UTM Davis Building and the UTSG Lash Miller Chemistry Building, and can experience the university from two different points of view in the same day. I love that I’m able to use the gym and play sports at either campus anytime.

I currently live downtown in an apartment with a roommate, another UofT Chemistry PhD student. We live within a 10 minute walking distance to Lash Miller and 10 minutes to the UTM bus stop. Here is what my monthly budget looks like:

Rent/Utilities $ 1000
Groceries $ 200
Entertainment $ 300

A smiling brown woman in a red hat standing in an evergreen forest smiles at the camera.
Anna Galang

I completed my undergraduate degree in biochemistry and neuroscience at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. During my final year, I began working with Professor Ruby Sullan on my capstone thesis project, where I explored the interfacial and nanoscale properties of polymer films and nanoparticles. Soon after, I joined the Sullan lab as a PhD graduate student where I am now exploring the antimicrobial ability of polydopamine systems and how it affects bacteria.

Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, I have always appreciated how close-knit and friendly the community is here. We have access to Rouge Hill Conservation and Lake Ontario on campus, which are both fantastic places for jogging, biking, and hiking. We also have access to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, a fantastic gym. We share a lab space with other UTSC groups, which makes it convenient for academics, post-docs, and graduate students to collaborate and develop connections. Additionally, we have access to excellent facilities like TRACES and CNS, which both provide cutting-edge tools.

Another excellent unifying factor on our campus is the student organizations, such as GSAS and our UTSC reps for ChemClub and WICTO, who keep us in touch with one another as well as the people at UTSG and UTM. We frequently meet for ChemClub's bi-weekly Krispy Kreme donuts and WICTO's monthly journal clubs. Because our community is smaller, we naturally find ourselves eating lunch together, going to the gym, or finding enjoyable local activities to de-stress.

Despite being a satellite campus of St. George, Scarborough is easily accessible from downtown via the TTC or the Go Train (1-1 1/2 hours). I have the fortunate privilege to still reside at home (Durham region) and drive to school every day for 20-30 minutes. I am aware that rent prices are high, however Scarborough is less expensive than downtown, with rent ranging from $1200 (without roommates) to $880 (with roommates), depending on how close the apartment is to campus. Whatever the case, there are a variety of rentals available, and even though it's a longer commute to campus, there are direct buses (TTC, Durham Transit and Go Bus) that drop you off right there. Another fantastic choice is the Graduate Housing at UTSC, which puts you directly on campus and is a 2–5 minute walk to the lab. However, spaces are often reserved for first years, so I would advise you sign-up early! All in all, Scarborough is a great campus and community to be a part of!

Here is my estimated monthly spendings:

Gas/Insurance $ 400
Phone: $ 80
Parking (Yearly Pass $1156) $ 144
Groceries $ 150
Entertainment  $ 200

Closeup of a man with South Asian features smiling into the camera.Bilal Saqib

Hi! I’m a second-year PhD student in Prof. Patrick Gunning’s lab here at University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus (UTM). In my senior year of undergraduate studies, a research-based thesis course with the Gunning Group exposed me to the interdisciplinary nature of this specific medicinal chemistry/ drug discovery lab which greatly influenced my decision to stay and pursue graduate studies under the supervision of Prof. Gunning. Currently I am working on optimizing chemoproteomic methods for the analysis of small molecule therapeutics in vivo using mass spectrometry. 

The Mississauga campus is tucked away just 30 km from St.George (downtown campus) by the Credit River. It features stunning modern architecture surrounded by several nature trails that are also home to a local deer population. 

From the wildlife to award-winning architecture that is often used as filming locations by popular movies/tv-shows, this cozy campus has lots to offer. For example, tuition covers access to the athletics centre (RAWC) that has a large swimming pool, gym, high performance powerlifting centre, soccer field, squash, and basketball courts. You also get an annual Mi-Way (Mississauga transit) pass to explore the city along with a shuttle bus service to St. George which runs every 30 minutes Mon-Fri and over the weekend. The average trip to the downtown campus takes 45-60 mins and the shuttle serves as a convenient mode of transportation for seminars or class.

For food and entertainment, on-campus food options include the pub, bubble tea, the food court, and a several coffee shops. The campus graduate student clubs (CPSGSA and UTMAGS) hold fun monthly events in the grad lounge and larger holiday events that are a great way to network and destress with fellow graduate students and department faculty. In addition, the Chemclub based out of St. George also offers many organized events, formals, and nights open to students from all three campuses where transportation is covered.

Although there are on-campus housing options available for graduate students, I chose to live at home which makes for a 3-hr daily commute. While this may not be feasible for most, it can work with a little time management. If you live on or near campus, the South Common Centre, Erin Mills Town Centre, and the Square One Mall are a short bus ride away for all your grocery, food, and entertainment needs.

Here’s a breakdown of my monthly spending:

Fuel $ 900
Grocery $ 250
Food $ 200
Phone $ 50
Entertainment $ 100

Guillermo Lozano Onrubia

After spending my whole life in Europe, I was looking for new adventures and a great place to do my PhD! I had several options in mind, but ultimately, Toronto ended up being the fit: an ideal mixture of a vibrant city and a compelling university.

As an international incoming student, the supervisor's choice might have been more tricky than for the students already living in Canada. Honest communication with the possible supervisors and their graduate students, as well as some introspection to understand the own needs and desires, are definitely important!

Toronto is an expensive city - at least to my standards. That said, the funding received by the Department fully covers the costs of living. The additional awards and scholarships make it even possible to increase to increase the annual income. In that sense, taking part at GCI (Green Chemistry Initiative) or ChemClub are great opportunities to hear about these additional funding options, create collaboration groups between research groups and meet people! This city attracts people from all over the world: getting to meet people becomes therefore very easy!

P.s: start searching for an apartment as soon as you can!

Rent $ 1000
Utilities + Phone $ 100
Groceries $ 200
Entertainment $ 200
Tuition (yearly) $ 9000

Isla Wrightson

Isla Wrightson

I grew up in a suburb of Vancouver and completed my honours BSc in Chemistry at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in May 2020. During my undergrad at UBC, I participated in the Co-op program, and did an industrial placement at Solvay America, Inc., in Connecticut. While on Co-op I did a lot of travelling on the east coast, and really enjoyed the change of scenery, weather and “hustle-and-bustle” atmosphere. Since Metro Vancouver is extremely multicultural, I was looking to move to an equally diverse city (especially as a foodie!), and the GTA was a great fit for those criteria. Those factors, combined with the novel and innovative research being conducted at UofT made it a very easy decision for me to pursue my graduate research here within the UofT Chemistry department. 

In September 2020, I joined Prof. Myrna Simpson’s research group, located at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) campus. My research revolves around using analytical techniques such as GC-MS and NMR spectroscopy to examine the long-term impact of changes in litter quality and quantity on the molecular biogeochemistry of soil organic matter in forests. At the Scarborough campus, the UTSC Chemistry graduate students are part of the Department of Physical & Environmental Sciences (DPES), so we also get the chance to meet a lot of other graduate students outside of chemistry too. There are lots of opportunities to get involved on campus, especially through the Graduate Students’ Association at Scarborough (GSAS). GSAS regularly hosts events such as seminar series, coffee breaks and other social events. Compared to the downtown campus, UTSC is much smaller and compact, but there are still some amazing amenities close by. We have a lot of food options on campus and have access to an amazing athletics facility (TPASC), that was built for the Pan Am games. Additionally, the campus is surrounded by a lot of beautiful outdoor parks and trails. 

When I was doing my undergrad at UBC, I was commuting from home (~1.5 hours each way), so I really wanted to live within walking distance of campus when I started grad school at UTSC. I currently share a basement apartment with my roommate, that is about a 15-20 minute walk to campus. Compared to downtown, renting in Scarborough can be much more affordable, especially if you have a car and are willing to live a bit further from campus. There are a few apartment buildings (~$1000-1200/month) and neighbourhoods that frequently rent out rooms/basements (~$700-1000/month) within walking distance to UTSC. The Scarborough Town Centre area also has a lot of apartment buildings too, if you are looking for other renting options in Scarborough. It’s relatively easy to get around by TTC too, since there are many bus routes that stop at UTSC. A trip to the St. George campus from UTSC by TTC takes around ~75 minutes.

I love to stay busy and active in my (limited) free time as a graduate student. During the summer, there are a lot of great outdoor spaces close to UTSC, including many beautiful parks with hiking trails, the waterfront, and the Scarborough Bluffs. As a UTSC graduate student, we also get free access to the tennis courts located in the UTSC valley in the summer. In addition to playing tennis, I also regularly go to the gym at TPASC throughout the year and partake in some of the classes they offer, such as Latin dancing. With the relaxation of pandemic restrictions, my labmates and I have also enjoyed going to Blue Jays games, concerts, and Latin dance nights at various venues along the Danforth too.  

My average monthly budget is roughly:

Rent (including utilities & internet) $ 750
Phone $ 50
Food $ 200
Groceries $ 200
Coffee/Restaurants $ 200
Entertainment (event tickets, TTC fare) $ 200

Samantha McWhirter

Samantha McWhirter

I grew up in a small town in the Gaspe Peninsula in Eastern Quebec, so I had always imagined moving to a large city like Toronto to experience another pace of life. During my time at Mount Allison University (in Sackville, NB) I realized that Chemistry really excited me and while doing my honours research project, I decided that I wanted to pursue my PhD. It was after visiting the department during the prospective student weekend that I decided that I wanted to come to U of T. Seeing the world-class research being done here with the facilities and resources that were available and immediately feeling a sense of community in the department made it an easy decision. I am now entering my third year in Prof. Gilbert Walker’s lab, which is located at the downtown St. George campus. My research has focused on developing gold nanoparticles for biodiagnostic applications.

Life in the Chemistry department has been really great over the last two years. ChemClub regularly hosts all sorts of that bring graduate students and postdocs together, so that everyone can meet students from other labs while playing board games, going to a sporting event or enjoying some great free food. I decided to join the ChemClub executive as the Internal Events Coordinator this year so that I could participate in the planning of these events. ChemClub hosts large events like the holiday party and the formal that most of the department attends, as well as smaller trips outside of Toronto such as the ski trip and camping trip. Participating in these events definitely brings us together as a department, and it fosters a really supportive environment which is one of the best things about the Chemistry department at U of T. 

The stipend that I receive from U of T allows me to live quite well even in a relatively expensive city like Toronto. Finding an apartment downtown can be competitive and may take longer than expected, but keep an eye out and don’t give up because there are definitely lots of great places to live! I live in an apartment with two roommates in Kensington Market, one of the most vibrant and interesting neighborhoods Toronto has to offer with tons of unique bars, restaurants and shops to explore. I also take advantage of the cheap groceries that are available in the market and Chinatown as well. It’s only a short walk (less than 10 minutes) away from Lash Miller and is within walking distance to most of downtown, so I do not have to pay for transit very often which keeps costs down. Below is an example of what my monthly budget for necessities might look like:

Rent/utilities $ 900
Phone/Internet $ 70
Groceries $ 200
Tuition $ 600