School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Dr Kathrin Tyryshkin

Ph.D in Computing Science

Kathrin Tyryshkin and her daughter

Kathrin with her daughter prior to the start of Convocation

Dissertation Boot Camp Helped Dr. Tyryshkin

by Sharday Mosurinjohn, March 2015

Before even defending her PhD, computer scientist Kathrin Tyryshkin had two job offers – one in industry, and one at a Queen’s department (the one she ultimately took). Tyryshkin surely chose a timely field and stayed the course with diligence in publishing, conferencing and teaching, but she credits at least part of her success to Queen’s School of Graduate Studies’ Dissertation Boot Camp.  

It was for that reason that this year’s Boot Camp was bookended with cake – the SGS Deans’ celebratory one at the end of the week, and the one made by Tyryshkin and her three-year-old daughter at the beginning. Since its inception just a few years ago, Tyryshkin has been to four Boot Camps and one round (the first and only one offered while she was still a student) session of Thesis Persistence 101 by SGS embedded counsellor Ashley Vanstone.

As a computer scientist working in the field of biomedical computing, Tyryshkin loves analyzing data, but has never been particularly fond of writing. “I struggled to find motivation to write, “she says of that component of the PhD work. But “from the first moment of Boot Camp, there’s something in the air, and you understand that you’re going to start right now. You don’t want to check your email or phone. You no longer feel obligated to think of planning what’s for supper. You have permission to just be in the zone.”

Beyond having the pressure of endless everyday decisions lifted and absorbing the motivationally charged atmosphere, it was a consultation with Academic Success Services’ Liz Parsons that made a big difference to Tyryshkin’s writing approach. “Liz had me plan out the tasks I had in store and write down beside each one the time it would take.” She laughs and says, “I added it up and said: this won’t work.” Tyryshkin reorganized though, and then work she most certainly did.

After the fourth Boot Camp in June of her defence year, Tyryshkin went to the library every day for a month until she was finished writing. In the library, as with Thesis Persistence (which was essentially a three-hours-per-week Boot Camp without the cake, yoga, and workshops), it was really just the impression that there was someone in control of the space – whether the librarian or Ashley – who cared that you were doing what you should be doing.

When it came time to share the results with the people who cared the most – her thesis examiners, including co-supervisors Janice Glasgow (School of Computing) and Stephen Scott (Neuroscience; Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) – the quality of Tyryshkin’s writing made the difference between a stressful event and one that the newly minted PhD genuinely enjoyed. “My defence was a great experience. The committee complimented my written work, saying it was enjoyable to read. I’m grateful to Dissertation Boot Camp for that.” Recognizing the importance of being nice to your reader, she says simply: “A good thesis equals a good defence.”

Now, Tyryshkin is working for Queen’s Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine performing various genetic data analyses for pathologists and clinicians, as well as mentoring some graduate students. (She is also teaching a second year Computer Science course for which she had been the TA for a number of years.) By looking at things such as gene expression and protein expression, researchers can discover differences in things such as treatment prognosis and differences between subgroups of cancer – perhaps enabling the administration of targeted therapies.

This kind of work is an ideal fit for Tyryshkin, who started out with a BSc in pure computer science but later went into an MSc with a biomedical focus. “I thought it was useful. I had feared the prospect of doing the same job every day. But this was about helping people with the diverse problems they had,” she describes. And it was for that reason, ultimately, that she stayed at Queen’s to do a PhD. Her current position, moreover, is rooted in an appreciation for a collaborative approach to health. “Pathology realized they needed a team in order to do the most revealing analyses of their data that were possible.”

There is no doubt these days for Tyryshkin that her contributions – through mentorship, analysis, participation on grants, collaboration on papers, etc. – are making a difference in the broad field of health. As it does, paying it forward in gratitude of the support she received as a Queen’s grad student stays at the top of hers.