Posted: October 13, 2020
Where do you work, what is your position and who is your advisor?
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Wesley Zandberg’s lab at UBC Okanagan. I am working on a project in collaboration with Dr. Wade Abbott at AAFC though and he was the person who originally recruited me to join this team, so I also consider him an advisor and am planning to conduct research in his lab as well once the current COVID-19 restrictions permit a research exchange.
Tell me about the project you’re working on.
We are currently working to characterize sialidases in Clostridium perfringens, a causative agent of necrotic enteritis in poultry, and identify novel inhibitors from readily available agricultural waste products such as dairy residuals to aid in development of affordable and practical alternatives to antibiotic use. Right now, my work has focused a lot on developing techniques for isolating and characterizing milk oligosaccharides in a large scale and high-throughput fashion.
Other than glycomics, what areas of research do you think is important in advancing healthcare?
I think that improving science communication with the public is important. In a time of a public health crisis, it is easy to see how harmful the spread of misinformation and mistrust between citizens and the science community can be so I think developing ways to improve science communication and education is critical to move forward.
Tell me an “Eureka!” moment in the lab.
I think the most memorable one would have to be when I first started grad school and was screening Campylobacter jejuni mutants for their ability to chemotax towards fucose. When I identified a mutant that had lost this ability, indicating the gene was involved, it was an exciting feeling that I was the first person to ever make that connection. From that moment, I was hooked on making new discoveries and knew I wanted to continue with my career in science.
One flagship event of GlycoNet is the annual Canadian Glycomics Symposium. Due to COVID-19, we were not able to host one this year, but we translated it into the webinar series. Have you connected with someone through these virtual events?
After I presented my online webinar in lieu of presenting at an in-person Symposium this spring, Dr. Lara Mahal sent me an email thanking me for presenting and saying how excited she was to see the next generation of scientists. I had been feeling very uncertain about my future career due to all the looming uncertainty with the COVID-related shutdowns and my webinar was plagued with technical difficulties since at the time I was living in my parents’ basement in rural Alberta with a terrible internet connection so it was really a rough patch for me and my confidence was shaken. Thus, it felt nice to see that such a respected and accomplished person still believed in me and it helped me pick myself up again and move forward.
What do you do when you are not in the lab?
Lately I have been doing a lot of drawing and colouring. I just treated myself to a new package of pencil crayons and they are bringing me lots of joy during my socially distanced life.
How do you fight procrastination and stress?
I like to divide my days into half hour segments where I work on one task for half an hour before switching gears to something else. I find that by working on something for just a little bit at a time is less daunting than saying I must complete an entire certain task before I can start on another one. I also (usually) make sure I start working on things early since my process can sometimes be a little bit slower than just powering through one thing at a time. I also try to set aside my Saturdays to be a fun day where I don’t do anything work-related so I’m more motivated to work on other days since I know I will get a day at the end of the week to relax and recharge.
If you had to choose a completely different career path, what would it be?
Astronaut. I think it would be incredible to see the Earth from space and my curiosity for learning new things extends beyond the limits of our planet.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to have my own lab and teach at the University of Lethbridge where I completed my undergrad. My love for research really started there and it would be nice to be able to return to that environment in the role of a mentor. Plus, I hear they just got a cool new science building!
About Jolene Garber
Dr. Jolene Garber recently completed her PhD in microbiology studying the roles of carbohydrate metabolism in gastrointestinal pathogens at the University of Georgia. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, working on developing new methods for studying glycan modification by microbial sialidases.
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