Work Terms Across Canada: Winnipeg native Sebastian Dowhanik shares about moving home for his work with the Public Health Agency of Canada

Winnipeg native and Molecular Biology/Biotechnology specialist Sebastian Dowhanik chose to head back home for his work term. Here's why he snagged his work term with the Public Health Agency of Canada and his tips for making the most of a work term outside of the GTA.

Tell me about you – what’s your program and why did you choose to study it? What career(s) are you currently considering?

Molecular Biology/Biotechnology Coop Specialist. I chose it because I am interested in biology and my mother thought it would be a good idea to do a coop degree. I'm currently strongly considering medicine, but also grad school

Tell me about your job at the Public Health Agency of Canada. What drew you to it?

Right now, I am involved in sequencing Hanta Virus strains in order to determine what kind of diversity is in Canada, mainly Western Canada, and to maybe link geographic diversity to answer some questions about the virus and its pathogenicity. What drew me to it was that it is the only biosafety level 4 laboratory in the country, they were involved in creating the Ebola virus vaccine during the 2014 outbreak, and have also been involved with many other things like SARS and H1N1. It's arguably the biggest microbiology laboratory in Canada.

What does an average day at your job look like right now?

I go to work, I will extract Hanta virus RNA and will perform PCR trying to amplify the M and S segments of the virus. If I succeed, I clean up the DNA and then send it for sequencing. I also help out others around the lab with projects they're working on.

Were you excited to head back home?

Moving back here was pretty easy, although I definitely miss Toronto a lot. I was definitely excited to start work!

What’s your experience been like living there so far?

Well since I've lived here for 18 years I already have an established friend group and know what to do, so everything is pretty good. I just don't have much time between work and studying for the MCAT!

What places would you recommend that other co-op students who relocate to Winnipeg check out?

Definitely The Forks. It's a beautiful area at the city centre. Osborne Village also has many great bars and places to eat, like Baked Expectations. Assiniboine Park is a very nice place to just relax, and if you're into zoos, we have a really cool polar bear exhibit. 

What advice, if any, would you give to a student considering a work term outside of Toronto?

In order to make the most of it, you need to get to know the people you're working with and go out. Make some friends. Otherwise you'll be sat doing nothing but work and chilling and won't be able to make the most of the city.