Dean of Science, Professor and Principal Investigator at Brandon University
Tell us about yourself
I was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, which is located on the beautiful island of Cape Breton. I currently live in Brandon, Manitoba. I relocated to Brandon for employment. Fun activities include reading, swimming, biking and skating.
What is your research about?
Most diseases are treated with drugs. If a drug is used too much and too often, resistance develops, and the drug no longer works. My research is about trying to figure out why drugs stop working.
What have you enjoyed the most about your research?
The most enjoyable moment is when there is a story to tell. Working in the lab is a 9-5 job. The student researchers and I spend hours in the lab performing experiments, collecting data and then analyzing it. We may spend several years trying to figure out a problem. When we feel that the story is complete, the work is published so that others in the scientific community can read about our work.
What have you found most challenging about your research?
My research involves live parasites. The parasites must be grown in a liquid that must be free of other living organisms, particularly bacteria. We can't add antibiotics to the medium to keep the bacteria out, as the antibiotics kill the parasites. It can be frustrating to spend weeks growing large quantities of parasites only to end up with secondary bacterial growth. Since we are trying to figure out why the drugs stop killing the parasites (due to resistance) we can't have bacteria or antibiotics present. The lesson - there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
How has your research experience influenced your career path?
I will continue to work in research. As an educator working at a university, research is part of my job.
How has your research impacted the world?
Most diseases are treated by drugs. The misuse and overuse of drugs has created drug resistance. There are very few drugs that make it to the market for public use. That's because there are a series of very stringent tests that are used to determine their safety, and many drugs fail these tests. The idea of just switching to use another drug is not always possible. Just as people are related, so are drugs. If a person develops resistance to a drug, they generally develop resistance to that drug's "relatives" as well.
What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?
The discovery of a way to combat resistance that develops in the drugs used to treat cancer.
What motivates you to do research?
I originally wanted to be a marine biologist (and "play" with sharks) after reading a book about the "shark lady", Dr. Eugenie Clark. As there were no jobs in 'shark studies', my career led me along a path where I developed strategies for combating fish diseases.
Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment
Like many people, I had always assumed that drug resistance developed in the parasites. However, I conducted a study that showed that the host (where the parasite lives) had an influence on the drug as well.