Trainee at GlycoNet: Alysha Burnett

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Where do you work, what is your position and who is your advisor?

I am a Research Technician in Dr. Joel Weadge’s lab at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Tell me about the project you’re working on.

As a research technician I get to contribute to multiple projects! The underlying theme to our work is the production and export of modified cellulose from various pathogenic organisms. As a biochemist, I have assisted in characterizing the function of multiple proteins involved in the addition of acetyl or phosphoethanolamine groups to cellulose. I’ve also taken a try at some microbiology work to analyze the phenotypes of these pathogens and their mutants. 

Other than glycomics, what areas of research do you think is important in advancing healthcare?

I find nano-science (nanotechnology, nano-medicine/ nano-engineering) really fascinating. The applications seem endless and often offer a solution to problems from improving energy consumption, to targeting cancer cells for treatment without damaging healthy cells. I think great things for healthcare will come from this type of research. 

Tell me an “Eureka!” moment in the lab.

During my masters we did some High Throughput Screening work. Being able to visit the SickKids SPARC facility and witness the robots work their magic was super exciting. From learning about the process in undergrad courses to then getting to actually do it has been a highlight of my academic career.

Use one word to describe a main take-away from the Canadian Glycomics Symposium. 

Communication. Majority of the workshops or talks I’ve attended at the Symposiums over the years focused on the fact that scientific communication to the general public, students or colleagues is one of the most valuable skills a scientist can have. I always walk away from the symposium with new ideas and confidence when talking about my science.

What do you do when you are not in the lab?

I recently took up ballet which was one of my favourite hobbies as a kid (a lot more challenging as an adult)! I love trying new forms of exercise. I’ve been into kickboxing, dancing, cycling and yoga recently.

How do you fight procrastination and stress?

I have about 3 calendars… I’m a super organized person. But that doesn’t always help. It has taken an undergrad and masters degree to learn to recognize when I’m struggling or reaching my limit. I’d say taking a step back to regroup or doing something non-science related and not overloading my to-do list is what has helped me the most (and has saved MANY experiments). 

If you had to choose a completely different career path, what would it be?

I would 100% be a baker. I consider baking to be a form of science in a way. I enjoy baking for the department coffee socials and am always looking for an occasion to bake something.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself hopefully splitting my time with bench work and an administrative role of some kind. It is very important to me to stay connected to research but I also think exploring other roles would be challenging and rewarding. 

About Alysha

Alysha was a masters student and is now a research technician in the Weadge lab at Wilfrid Laurier University. She was also among the first ones to receive the GlycoNet Undergraduate Summer Research Award in 2016. 

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