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CEEHRC / About Epigenetics / Scientist Spotlight: Kailynn MacGillivray, University of Toronto /

Kailynn MacGillivray is originally from Kemptville, Ontario and is carrying out her PhD in the lab of Arneet Saltzman studying histone modification writers in C. elegans.

  • Kailynn MacGillivray

Where are you from? What do you miss about your hometown/country?

I’m from Kemptville, Ontario, a small town outside of Ottawa. What I miss most is my family and the peacefulness of a small town. I also miss being able to see the stars at night!

What city do you currently live in and what do you like most about this city?

I currently live in Toronto, Ontario. I love how busy the city is. There is always a new restaurant to try, a concert to go to, or an event to check out!

What are some ways you detach from work/science/academia? Do you have a favourite example of this?

Outside of the lab I love to read, particularly murder mysteries. I also like boxing and playing tennis with friends in the summer.

Do you have any special talents outside of research that few people in your academic life know about?

I am a pretty good cook. I love to experiment with different elements of cooking, like trying to use different types of salt, spices, or acids. I can be very creative in the kitchen, and most of the time it pays off!

Do you have a recommendation for a book, tv show, movie or documentary?

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn is a great book with an unreliable narrator. If you like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, you will love this book!

What made you decide to become a researcher?

I have loved science since I was a little kid and I have always been a curious person. When I got the opportunity to do a research project during my undergraduate degree, I liked that this curiosity was encouraged and the fact that I got to be the one to find the answers to my questions. 

If you wouldn’t be a researcher, what would you like to be/think you would be?

I think that I would have gone to teacher’s college. Working as a teaching assistant during my graduate degree has shown me how much I love to share my knowledge with others!

What sparked your interest in epigenetics?

The concept of a histone code. It fascinates me how different histone modifications can interact and influence each other to regulate thousands of genes and 3D chromatin architecture.

If you could give your “first-year-PhD-self” one advice, what would it be?

To be productive you need physical, mental and emotional rest. It is better to take a break and come back with a fresh set of eyes than to try and push through a problem. Also, join your department’s graduate student union. It’s a great way to get to know people in other labs!

Where would you like to see your research/field of interest end up in the future?

I would like to see improved communication of epigenetics to the general public. I think that it is such a cool field of study with new tools and applications emerging all the time, and it should be understandable and accessible to everyone.