Trainee at GlycoNet: Matt Deen

Posted: January 1, 2018

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

I am a PhD candidate in David Vocadlo’s laboratory at Simon Fraser University.

Which project do you work on?

I am currently involved in two glycoNet projects. My main focus has been on rare genetic disease project -1 (Identification of glucocerebrosidase activators and PET imaging agents). As part of a team in the Vocadlo group, I am working on developing a live cell high throughput screen of activators of glucocerebrosidase, a Parkinson’s Disease (PD) associated enzyme. I have been involved in developing sensitive fluorogenic substrates amenable to assay miniaturization. Due to the strong association of glucocerebrosidase with Parkinson’s, as well as sensitivity of the probes I have worked on developing, we are also applying them as a clinical diagnostic tool for PD in glyconet research project CD-35 (Development and validation of a quantitative clinical flow cytometry assay for selective measurement of GCase activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells).

If you have previously attended the AGM/Symposium, what was your experience?

I have had the privilege of attending the past two glycoNet AGMs/symposiums. The HQP training programs during the AGM have been useful in a number of different areas, from learning how to more efficiently disseminate my research to areas outside of chemistry i.e. patent procedure and alternatives to academia. Regarding the symposium, both years that I have gone I have learned a great deal from the research talks (from both the keynotes as well as the HQPs) and following discussions. Every year I am impressed with not only the quality of research being performed by my fellow HQPs, but also the impact their projects have on pertinent health issues in Canada.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I see myself doing post-doctorate in the field of glycomics working to develop and apply novel chemical tools to answer questions of food security. Specifically, with increasingly populous planet, how can we use the power of glycomics to improve large-scale food production in an economical fashion?

What does glycomics mean to you?

Glycomics by definition is the study of all glycans found in a given cell type or organism. These studies are accomplished via the use of well-designed instruments, and chemical tools to ask questions about the structure and function of glycans. Due to the fact that glycans are ubiquitous in nature and play key roles in many disease pathologies, I see research in the field of glycomics as an important opportunity to not only further our understanding of fundamental biology, but also improve the health and well being of a large group of people struggling with disease.

What is your favorite quote?

There are no such things as negative results, only negative people – DM

Based on your experience what advice would you give to junior trainees?

Because the field of glycomics is so interdisciplinary, the best advice that I can give to a junior trainee is to discuss your research with not only people working in your field, but also on those outside of your area of research. In my own experience broadening my perspective through discussions over coffee helped me see solutions that I would have not been able to pick out beforehand. The other piece of advice that I have for junior trainees was taught to me by a childhood hero, “don’t be afraid to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

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