Maia H. Blomberg

I am a third year undergraduate student in Integrated Science

Tell us about yourself

I was raised on Bowen Island, a small island off the coast of Vancouver. I moved into the city of Vancouver because I wanted to be closer to my school - the University of British Columbia. My happy place is in the mountains. Skiing allows me to escape from the craziness of day-to-day life, and I try to get up to the slopes as often as possible. My favorite type of skiing is big mountain!

What is your research about?

My research examines Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is a disease that prevents the brain from communicating with other parts of the body. Normally, the brain uses special cells called neurons to send and receive messages. The neurons are covered by a fatty material called myelin, which helps them communicate. You can think of myelin as the rubber casing around electrical wires. Myelin is damaged in patients with MS, and scientists still do not know why this occurs. My research aims to uncover some of the mechanisms that are responsible for MS.

What have you enjoyed the most about your research?

The cool thing about working in research is that each day involves a different task. There are always new questions to be answered, and you never stop learning. Another cool aspect of research is that nobody knows the answer to your research question. You are working at the edge of scientific knowledge, the border between what is known and what is unknown, which fosters both creativity and exploration.

What have you found most challenging about your research?

One of the most challenging components of research is the fact that what should work in theory often does not work in practice. There are many occasions when you gather all of your data only to find that your theory didn't pan out the way you thought it would. It's confusing and frustrating, but this 'failure' is necessary in order to refine your hypothesis and keep your work on the right track.

How has your research experience influenced your career path?

My research experience has opened my eyes to the wide range of job opportunities within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Each research position is different. Your career path will be unique to you, and may end up taking you to all different parts of the world. Exploration is a large component of research, so I plan to let my own curiosities and questions guide my future choices.

How has your research impacted the world?

My research has particular importance to Canadians, because Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world. Knowing the underlying mechanisms of MS will allow medical professionals to design better treatments for patients, and improve the lives of many Canadians.

What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?

Recently, there has been some interesting work regarding genetic influences on MS. In the summer of 2016, a group of researchers at UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health demonstrated that MS could be caused by a single genetic mutation, or change in DNA structure. Despite this progress, many questions remained unanswered.

What motivates you to do research?

A few years ago, my uncle was diagnosed with MS. In an effort to find out what was happening to him, I did some reading. I couldn't believe that, even after hours of reading, I still had no idea why this disease was affecting him. I guess that was why I got into research in the first place. I decided that if other scientists couldn't figure it out, I would have to try and figure it out on my own!

Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment

My Eureka! Moment wasn't necessarily a specific moment in time. Instead, it actually continued throughout my undergraduate degree. In my first couple years of study, I doubted my own abilities, and I felt like I didn't belong in a giant school full of really intellectual people. My grades were average, and people often told me that they weren't good enough to lead to a career in research. Despite those opinions, I continued working hard until I eventually landed a research position at Vancouver General Hospital. To this day, I am so happy that I chose to believe in myself!


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