I am a 3rd year PhD student in Chemistry.
Tell us about yourself
I was born in Mississauga ON and I currently live in Brampton ON with my boyfriend and our sweet puppy Taquito. I commute everyday to the University of Guelph, where I have been studying for the past 8 years. In my spare time I enjoy crafting (i.e. card making, and scrapbooking) and I also LOVE to bake and decorate cakes, cupcakes, and cookies!
What is your research about?
My current research is based around carbohydrate-based vaccine development. In my lab we look at bacteria that generates gastrointestinal discomfort (diarrhea and constipation). A notable bug that I work with are Campylobacter jejuni, that causes traveler's diarrhea, which you may have seen dancing in a hula skirt in the AMEX commercials on TV. We also work with bugs like Clostridium difficile and some autism associated bacteria.
What have you enjoyed the most about your research?
What I enjoy most about research is getting to have a hands on experience in the lab. I have enjoyed working with my different types of machines and equipment over the past 4 years. The other joy that I get to experience is knowing that my vaccine prototypes have the potential to help prevent disease and discomfort for the general population.
What have you found most challenging about your research?
Some less fun experiences revolve around failures. Some times tasks can take weeks or months to complete and in the end you find out that the product of your hard work was incorrect. A positive to these challenges is that you can build personal strength from learning that mistakes are human and without the mistakes there would be no success. Learning from failures is the only way to improve your research abilities.
How has your research experience influenced your career path?
My research with vaccine development has 100% shaped my career path. I hope to stay in the vaccine industry in the future. I am also looking to continue my research by seeking opportunities to explore other topics of vaccine development, before entering the work force.
We hope to see our vaccines spread around the world and start to lift some of the health burdens on countries in need.
How has your research impacted the world?
The real world application of my research has a big impact. Currently my group has vaccines for C. jejuni prevention in human trial phases. The success of this prototype may mean getting preventative shots before someone like you goes on a vacation. The other impact site is that a lot of our vaccines target bugs that are affecting third world countries. We hope to see our vaccines spread around the world and start to lift some of the health burdens on countries in need.
What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?
In the field of carbohydrate vaccine development, so much is yet to be discovered. Each bug has many strains and each of those strains may carry a different sugar (or carbohydrate) on the surface. It can take a year or two to completely understand the sugar you are working with and if your are lucky enough to make a prototype vaccine it takes 5 - 10 years to make it to market. This is a field that will not be losing steam any time soon, since the world is now looking closer at ways to prevent disease, as well as cure.
When I was younger all I wanted to do was dance. I even went to an arts school and got accepted into dance groups in the US and Canada, but there was always something else that I wanted to do; help people.
What motivates you to do research?
When I was younger all I wanted to do was dance. I even went to an arts school and got accepted into dance groups in the US and Canada, but there was always something else that I wanted to do; help people. I think that this though was always with me from seeing my best friend get diagnosed with diabetes when I was in grade 7. Having someone close to you have their whole life change because of a medical reason can really change the way your view the world, and it 100% did for me. Entering univeristy I knew I would be in the sciences for life, but not until my 4th year in my undergraduate degree did I know I wanted to pursue further education in the form of a masters and then a PhD.
Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment
My Eureka! moment came in the first year of my masters degree. I remember feeling so lost, even though I studied chemistry for 4 years prior, and I started to doubt myself. One day I was sitting staring at the same data that I had been for weeks and I finally saw what all my other group mates had been trying to explain to me. I actually smiled so hard that my cheeks hurt afterwards. It is a small moment but it was that one that made me believe that I could do this (meaning my MSc and PhD) even if it meant staring at the same data for days just to understand one small concept that seems so easy to others.