Graduate Professional Development Conference (GPDC)

A collage of people from different conferences with a green overlay and an RGASC logo.

The UTM Graduate Professional Development Conference (GPDC) is a bi-annual event focused on enhancing graduate students’ transferable skills to better prepare them for their studies and beyond. This year, in response to the recent Graduate Needs Assessment survey, the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre (RGASC) invited current graduate students to share how they navigate their graduate journey.

We hope this new format of the GPDC will provide an opportunity for graduate students to get to know folks in the graduate community, gain insight into their peers’ varied experiences and lessons learned, and highlight support available to graduate students at UTM. 



Winter 2024 GPDC Schedule

This January, the RGASC accepted 7 proposals from UTM-affiliated graduate students to give 10-minute lightning talks about topics related to their graduate experience. Alongside these graduate students, GPDC will include talks from the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, The UTM Library, and UTM Career Centre.

Location: William G. Davis Building, Room 3140 & Zoom (Hybrid)

Date & Time: February 21 & 22, 10 am - 2 pm

Download the GPDC Program PDF


Program Details


Writing a Thesis/Dissertation 

Title: From Dissertation to Doctor: Writing Strategies to Achieve Your Academic Goal

Date & Time: February 21, 10:20 am - 11:20 am

Speaker: Monique Kampherm, Sessional Lecturer, Writing Studies and Writing Instructor, Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre

Description: Let’s conquer the dissertation and complete your doctoral journey! This presentation offers tactical insights and effective writing strategies to empower you with confidence in successfully finishing your dissertation.


Title: Managing Large Writing Projects: Tools and Techniques for your Dissertation 

Date & Time: February 21, 10:20 am - 11:20 am

Speaker: Paula Nunez de Villavicencio, PhD Candidate 

Description: This presentation will give an overview of the tools (bibliographic, time management, and writing programs) and techniques (blocking, co-writing, and expectation management) that were essential to the completion of my dissertation.


Data Management

Title: Five Things UofTCoders Can Help You With

Date & Time: February 21, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Speaker: Vicki Zhang, PhD Candidate

Description: UofT Coders are a diverse group of students and researchers across multiple fields dedicated to learning about and sharing scientific coding techniques and knowledge in an effort to improve technical and computation skills in grad school and beyond. In this talk, Vicki will share five ways that UofTCoders can help you during your graduate degree (some that she has experienced personally). If you are interested in attending our workshops, or getting involved through workshop development or teaching, please reach out!


Title: Cleaning and Transforming Data with Free Tools: An Intro to Power BI, Power Query, and Open Refine

Date & Time: February 21, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Speaker: Magnus Berg, Digital Scholarship Librarian, UTM Library

Description: Preparing data for visualization and analysis is often the most time-consuming aspect of a project. This is particularly true for data that has been collected in an inconsistent manner, data that has been inherited from a predecessor or prior project, and/or data collected from government agencies or organizations that is formatted in an undesirable way. Using free tools like Power BI, Power Query, and Open Refine large datasets can be cleaned, normalized, and transformed with relative ease and with little to no knowledge of programming or query languages. This session will go over some of the key features of these tools and some use cases where those feature may come in handy during your research.


Time Management in Graduate School 

Title: I’m Not Good at Time Management, But Here’s How I Try 

Date & Time: February 22, 10:20 am - 11:20 am

Speaker: Ilapreet Toor, PhD Candidate 

Description: The first step to improving your time management skills is to admit you’re not good at time management. The second step is trial and error! In this presentation, I share some techniques that have helped (and hindered) my time-management skills, in hopes of inspiring others to develop their own time-managing “toolkits”.


Title: Plan Your Research Journey 

Date & Time: February 22, 10:20 am - 11:20 am

Speaker: Hanlin Zhou, PhD Candidate 

Description: This talk focuses on the strategic planning of the PhD career for students who are interested in seeking a research career after graduation. This presenter will draw upon his four-year experience at UTM, offering insights into the key milestones below: coursework completion, comprehensive and proposal exams, data collection challenges exacerbated by the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the concurrent management of my research responsibilities. By sharing the research journey, this talk hopes to provide valuable guidance to the audience, empowering them with a blueprint for effectively mapping out their own PhD careers.


Title: Getting Things Done: Time Management for Graduate Students

Date & Time: February 22, 10:20 am - 11:20 am

Speaker: Kerrie Martin, Program Manager and Learning Strategist, Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre

Description: This talk will provide an opportunity to discuss strategies for effectively managing the many demands on the time of graduate students. Emphasis will be placed on finding a balance between academic and personal commitments, as well as creating accountability for oneself. Primary points of discussion will include procrastination, prioritization, and personal organization.


Navigating the Non-Academic Job Market while in Graduate School 

Title: Learning through Connecting: Developing Networking and Organizational Skills During Grad School 

Date & Time: February 22, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Speaker: Jatin, PhD Candidate

Description: Networking and organizing are skills that go a long way in a student career. This lightening talk will describe how to make collaborations, network, and market one’s skills to make the best use of the graduate life opportunities within and outside of academia. Instead of focusing on mere non-academic job market, I shall focus on the skills that students can develop from broader engagement within and beyond academia. 


Title: Keeping Up with Industry 

Date & Time: February 22, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Speaker: Zira MacFarlane, PhD Student

Description: The postgraduate job market is highly competitive, and any edge that can be added to an application is important. Many graduate students have excellent knowledge of theory and specific methods but can lack a wider familiarity with industry standard technical tools and approaches. This can lead to being overlooked when applications are reviewed. This talk will cover my experiences keeping up with the tools and approaches used in the non-academic job market for conservation & ecology.


Title: Key Moves to Plan a Successful Career Within or Outside Academia

Date & Time: February 22, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Speaker: Carolina Pombo, Career Counsellor, UTM Career Centre

Description: Independently of your aspirations with your graduate degree, a crucial part of your career development is planning it and regularly reassessing your plans. In this session, we will talk about two important moves you can take during that process: clarifying your understanding of the labour market (including domestic and international, academic and industry based), and learning how to weigh your degrees and your transferable skills when building your goals and searching for a job.


Graduate Student Speaker Bios



Jatin is a doctoral student, an Urban Research Fellow and a Social Justice Fellow at the Department of History, University of Toronto. His research focuses on twentieth century urbanization in South Asia and cuts across investigating urban housing, caste, law, and environment. Jatin actively engages with and contributes to the academic as well as non-academic community within and outside of the history department. Currently, he serves as a member of the GHS committee, department's CUPE steward, and as editor-in-training of the department's magazine, Past Tense. Beyond the history department, he is one of the founding members of FACT and has organized academic ventures like South Asian international conference in the past year.

Jatin's paper titled "Utilizing Dalit Autobiographies in History" just got published, which has won the Bluestone Scholarly Honorable Mention Award.

Zira MacFarlane

Zira MacFarlane

Zira MacFarlane (they/them) studies disturbance ecology. They are currently exploring the role of urban and stormwater management ponds as habitat for amphibians in developed landscape. Their academic work maintains a focus on biodiversity conservation, and they've worked in professional conservation as an analyst and as a consultant.

Paula Nunez

Paula Nunez de Villavicencio

Paula Nunez de Villavicencio is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto and a Jackman Humanities Graduate Fellow. Her research focuses on the historical and political dimensions of media technology used for the governance and surveillance of select populations. Specifically, her work looks at wearable technology and their role in shaping human conduct in different information systems, as well as their ethical implications. In broader terms, she is interested in information behaviours and practices, wearable technology, systems of AR, digital humanities and ethics. This research is supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Ilapreet Toor

Ilapreet Toor

Ilapreet Toor is a PhD candidate in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department in Dr. Melissa Holmes’ lab. Her thesis work centers around the social development of the naked mole-rat, and whether early life experience influences adulthood behavioural characteristics. She is defending her thesis in the next few weeks. During her time as a graduate student, Ilapreet has participated in a multitude of co-curricular activities, including being an outreach coordinator for Let’s Talk Science, a representative in the Local Animal Care Committee, a founding member of the UTM Science Career Committee, and a participant in numerous committees and workshops. She plans to shift to a career in industry post-graduation.

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang

Vicki is a PhD Candidate in the Kotanen Lab, studying invasive species in the Canadian tundra and how anthropogenic and climate factors may influence the spread of invasive species in the Arctic. Her data derives only from fieldwork, so during the school semesters, she is busy wrangling and analysing all of her data. Apart from research, Vicki teaches at both UofT and Humber College, and is also involved with UofTCoders, for which she develops coding material and instructs and helps with workshops. When she’s not working in the field or on her computer, you can find her training for her next long-distance race or behind a book.

Hanlin Zhou

Hanlin Zhou

Mr. Hanlin Zhou is a fourth-year PhD candidate specializing in geography and a sessional course instructor within the Department of Geography, Geomatics, and Environment. Hanlin's academic pursuits revolve around the dynamic intersection of geospatial data science, remote sensing, and computer science methodologies, all applied to gain insights into human activities, including health behavior and crime prevention. Currently, Hanlin has published 20 peer-reviewed papers and has won several awards, such as the Ontario Graduate Scholarship. In terms of teaching, he has also earned the departmental Teaching Assistant award for his contributions in educating and mentoring students.

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