Brothers cap off first year as undergrads by joining research groups

Image of Sanjit Patil and Sujit Patil

Twin brothers Sanjit and Sujit Patil share the positive experiences they had working as research assistants during their first years as undergraduate students.

Working in a research lab wasn’t on the Patil brothers’ spreadsheets.

Sanjit and Sujit Patil created their first spreadsheet to weigh the pros and cons of all the university offers they’d received. The brothers, who are identical twins, were graduating with near perfect marks from John Fraser Secondary School in Mississauga in 2022.

“We study together so we end up with similar grades,” says Sujit Patil. “We used to be super competitive when we were younger. Over time, we just relaxed a whole bunch and don’t compete with each other anymore.”

They’d both decided to attend McMaster.

Sanjit Patil had locked into Life Sciences. Sujit Patil was debating between Life Sciences and Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences. He decided to follow his brother just hours before the deadline to confirm his admission offer.

The brothers then created another spreadsheet to evaluate each second-year program they could take after their first year in the Life Sciences gateway program. This time there was no debate. Both agreed to enrol in Medical & Biological Physics.

Undergraduate research still wasn’t on their radar.

“I was very interested in the exciting research happening at McMaster,” says Sanjit Patil. “I was eager to get hands-on experience during my undergraduate degree but I didn’t know how to get started.”

Sujit Patil was also in the dark. “At first, I wasn’t going to get involved because I didn’t know what opportunities were available to a first-year student. I always assumed research was something that undergraduate students did in their upper years through thesis courses or internships.”

But then instructional assistant Sara Cormier let Sujit Patil know about summer research opportunities in the Physics and Astronomy Department and encouraged him to apply.

Sanjit Patil asked an upper-year mentor about how to get involved in research. That conversation inspired him to reach out to a few professors who also encouraged Sanjit Patil to apply.

“They were all really friendly. I’m most curious about the intersection between biology and physics so I was naturally drawn toward Dr. Kari Dalnoki-Veress’ lab,” says Sanjit Patil.

Working in Cecile Fradin’s lab topped Sujit Patil’s wish list. “I found the research around magnetotactic bacteria in Dr. Fradin’s lab to be super interesting and she was willing to bring me into her group.”

The Patil brothers both wound up working as research assistants on full-time contracts from May to August of this year. Both hope to be back in research labs next summer.

The biggest benefits of doing research as an undergraduate student?  Learning beyond textbooks and using past knowledge to solve problems, says Sujit Patil.

“Research definitely improves your critical research and collaboration skills. I’d recommend every undergraduate student who’s interested in research to get involved,” says Sujit Patil. “It gives you an early glimpse into a potential career and it’s a valuable addition to your academic journey.”

Sanjit Patil agrees with his twin brother on the benefits of research for undergraduate students. “The most significant benefit is gaining hands-on experience that complements what you learn inside the classroom. While I was working in Dr. Dalnoki-Veress’ lab, I was developing essential skills like designing experiments, data collection and analysis.”

Sanjit Patil also took part in a symposium that further developed his presentation and communication skills.

Cormier is now the acting program manager with the Faculty of Science’s new Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR). The office, the first of its kind at McMaster, aims to provide more undergraduate science students with early research opportunities.

“Sanjit and Sujit are phenomenal undergraduate students who became valued members of research groups after just their first year at Mac,” says Cormier.

“Figuring out how to get involved in research can be challenging, especially for first-year students. The Office of Undergraduate Research is here to make it easier for students to get involved.”

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