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


Zhu Diya

Diya Zhu

I grew up in Shenzhen, China and completed my honours BSc at Mount Allison University, New Brunswick. After spending 4 years in a lovely small town on the east coast, I decided to go back to a big city and pursue graduate studies. 

Toronto was an easy choice: I enjoy living in Canada, U of T is regarded as one of the most prestigious schools in Canada, and the chemistry department at St. George campus has great research and amazing facilities. I moved here in September 2016 to start a PhD program in inorganic chemistry with Prof. Doug Stephan. The department has been helpful in the transition and very supportive of student-run clubs and activities. For example, ChemClub organizes a number of events, which are excellent chances to meet department members as well as releasing stress from study and research. Also if you like running, Toronto is definitely a good choice with beautiful routes.

I am currently living in a one-bedroom condo in the Yonge & Charles area. It’s 30-minute walk from the department. This is a nice residential area with many new high-rise condos. Although the cost of living alone can be expensive, you can have more personal space and it’s not hard living if you budget accordingly. My average monthly budget is roughly:

Rent $ 1200
Internet & cell phone $ 100
Food $ 200
Entertainment $ 100

Kate Huang

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. During this time, I worked in a fantastic protein NMR lab which fueled my passion for pursuing research. I came to the University of Toronto in September 2016 to join the lab of Dr. Scott Prosser, where I now use NMR to study the dynamics of membrane proteins and their complexes in a lipid bilayer environment.

The Prosser group is located at the UTM campus, which has a strong focus in biophysical chemistry and medicinal chemistry. At UTM, we are affiliated with the department of Chemical and Physical Sciences (CPS), a multidisciplinary department with labs from Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, and Earth Sciences. As a result, I had the chance to meet with scientists from diverse backgrounds and attend interesting colloquiums on topics outside of my field. My working days are spent planning/carrying out experiments, working with undergraduate students, and laughing at silly things with lab mates.

Mississauga is a great place to live with lower rent, quiet neighbourhoods, and being only 30 minutes away from downtown Toronto by train. The campus is bordered by Erindale park, which provides an abundance of beautiful trails and wildlife. I share a basement apartment with my roommate 7 km from campus and drive to work each morning. A trip to St. George campus takes between 35-90 minutes on the UTM shuttle bus depending on traffic.

Monthly Budget:

Rent/Utilities $ 660
Phone $ 50
Grocerie $ 150
Car expenses $ 350
Food/Coffee/Restaurants  $ 200
Entertainment $ 100

Ignacio Loaiza

Ignacio Loaiza

I graduated as a physicist from the UNAM in Mexico in 2017, and joined the University of Toronto for grad school afterwards. My choice was made thanks to a summer internship program that I did in summer 2016, where I got the chance to work with Prof. Izmaylov. I really liked his supervising style, the work they were doing and the city, so it was a rather clear choice.Coming from Mexico City, I have never been a fan of big cities. I feel Toronto achieves a good balance between a big city, brimming with life and activities, yet has a certain relaxed vibe to it. If I had to sum Toronto down to one word, I would say diverse. I have never been to a more socially accepting, culturally diverse city, and I feel this is the main spot where this city shines. There always seems to be new, exciting spots in the city to discover, whether it's a new food place, a park, that tea place that's just amazing, and maybe some bars.When I first moved in here, I didn't know anyone. I made the lucky decision of moving into the Graduate House building and have met many friends there, always having some activity where you can meet new people. I would definitely recommend this for anyone new to Canada.As someone who was born and raised in Mexico, I always heard stories of the Canadian cold. I have to admit that I was more than slightly scared of the winter, but after it passed I don't think it's that bad, I could still walk around the city and go out with my friends (getting a good winter jacket is definitely a must). Also, I think this provides a nice balance with the summer activities, as there's always some camping trip or adventure awaiting around the corner when the weather's nice.Toronto is an expensive city to live in. Still, with the stipend I get, plus the TAing, and some budgeting, I do ok. Here is a breakdown of my monthly budget:

Rent/Utilities $ 900
Phone $ 50
Groceries $ 200
Tuition $ 700

Lisa Labine

I grew up in a small northern Ontario community and always dreamed of moving to a bigger city.  I completed my undergraduate degree in Forensic Science and Analytical Chemistry at Laurentian University near my hometown.  One of the highlights of my undergrad degree was the research experience I gained during various projects I took on.  I knew that I wanted to pursue graduate research in Chemistry.  I chose the University of Toronto for some of the novel and innovative research being done in the various sub-disciplines of chemistry. 

In September 2017 I joined the Myrna Simpson group where my research project focuses aquatic ecotoxicity metabolomics using keystone species Daphnia magna.  The research lab is located on the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, which means we’re farther away from the majority of the research groups in the department.  Being at the Scarborough campus there’s a large focus on environmental research, this opens many opportunities for collaboration with faculties such as the Department of Physical & Environmental Sciences.  The campus is smaller but this is no parallel to all the amenities the campus has to offer; there are many food options on campus, an incredible athletics facility which was built for the Pan Am games, and the campus is surrounded by plenty of outdoor space. 

One of the fears I had moving to a city which was much larger than I had previously experienced was going to be lack of outdoor time.  This couldn’t be further from the truth; the Don Valley is great for jogging, Highland Creek is great for hikes, the Toronto Waterfront has incredible bike paths, the High Park has been wonderful for picnics and quiet reading nooks.  All in all, the city of Toronto is every bit as great as I hoped it would be.  Nothing is really inaccessible; I don’t own a car and use the TTC as my main mode of transportation.  The nightlife scene in the city is great; I’ve been living in Toronto for a year now and have new things to experience on my to-do list all the time. 

When I first moved to Toronto, I first shared a condo with a roommate. My first apartment was located near the Scarborough Town Center which is a 20-minute bus ride from the Scarborough campus.  Total my commute took roughly 40 minutes with the time it took to take a bus transfer.  I’ve recently just moved into a one bedroom apartment downtown (shared rent); I couldn’t get enough of the downtown.  The commute from the apartment in the Annex is roughly an hour.  The commuting, in general, was long at first but I’ve been able to get through quite a few books that had just been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. Overall I now look forward to my commute it gives me a chance to relax.

My average monthly budget is roughly:

Rent $ 900
Phone/Internet $ 100
Transit Pass $ 116
Food/Restaurants $ 200
Other $ 200

Meikun Xia

After I obtained my B. Sc. degree in chemistry from Nankai Univerisity, China, in 2016, I joined the research group of Prof. Ozin as a Ph.D. student. Looking back upon the past two years, I still believe my decision of choosing U of T was correct.

First and foremost, this is a great place for research. The chemistry department at St. George has copious advanced facilities and excellent research environment. Additionally, the technical staff are very professional and supportive. More importantly, my supervisor, Prof. Ozin, as well as other professors in the department, are all very nice to offer their generous guidance.

Besides, life in Toronto is packed with excitement and you won’t ever feel bored. You can find restaurants with almost every kind here. Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario are walk distance from the campus. Concerts and ballet performances are available throughout the year. Toronto is such an enormous multicultural city that even if your hobby is generally considered as minority, you can still find your kindred spirits here. So, it’s quite easy to live a colorful life in Toronto.

I’m currently living with several friends in a house with a 12 min walking distance to Lash Miller. Although renting rooms in a house may cause less personal space as compared to condo, the distance from home to school is considered a more important factor to me, for the “winter half of the year” in Toronto is quite cold.


My monthly budget:

Rent/Utilities $ 800
Phone $ 50
Food $ 300
Entertainment $ 150

Pimyupa Manaswiyoungkul

I’m going on to my third year PhD under the supervision of Prof. Patrick Gunning in UTM. I joined the lab right after completion of my HB.Sc in biochemistry from the University of Waterloo in 2016 since I wanted to be closer to the GTA. My main project is on protein membrane anchorage as a therapeutic strategy through the use of prenylation.

The Mississauga campus itself is gorgeous and filled with greenery and wildlife. All the buildings are pretty new or just recently renovated as well. If you’re into fitness, the gym here is stunning.

Despite having my main campus at UTM, I still have access to all the wonderful facilities downtown to aid my research. Another plus is that the shuttle downtown is included in the tuition and is completely free! Same goes for the MiWay transit! There’s a lot to do around campus. Square One mall is not more than 15 minutes away from campus. There’s plenty of restaurants near by and a few skipthedishes option that delivers right to your building if you’re lazy like I am.

The UTM chemistry department is actually part of the chemical and physical sciences department here so not only we know everyone in chemistry, we get to hangout with people in physics and geology as well. We had a camping trip all together last year which was amazing. The Graduate Student Association also hosts a lot of great events ranging from networking night, illustrator workshops, to board game night and pi day.

I actually just bought a small townhouse in Milton so most of my expense is my mortgage. Commuting takes approximately 35 minutes but I really do enjoy the suburbs. On the weekend, I usually go hiking at Rattlesnake point or just go shopping at Toronto Premium Outlet. The stipend at UofT is one of the best I’ve seen so I’m able to live comfortable on my stipend alone.

Below is an approximate breakdown of my monthly expenses:

Mortgage $ 1000
Phone/Internet/Utilities $ 200
Food $ 200
Gas $ 200
Savings $ 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