Where do you work, what is your position and who is your advisor?
I work at the Ryerson MaRS Facility located in the heart of downtown Toronto. As a Ph.D. candidate, I lead several projects that are at the interface of cell biology and glycobiology under the supervision of Dr. Costin Antonescu and Dr. Warren Wakarchuk.
Tell me about the project you’re working on.
My project focuses on understanding how nutrient sensing mechanisms work within cells, and how this is disrupted to allow cancer cells to survive and divide. One of the pathways directly involved in nutrient sensing is called “hexosamine biosynthetic pathway,” or HBP. This pathway allows cells to make a unique molecule called UDP-GlcNAc. I study how cells use HBP and UDP-GlcNAc as “sensors” of the environment to control the uptake of growth factors and hormones. I use a variety of methods including advanced microscopy and fluorescent labeling approaches to visualize individual-specific proteins within normal and cancer cells.
What other areas of research do you think is important in advancing healthcare?
Glycan expression and regulation is highly altered in a number of diseases including malignant cells such as breast cancer growth and non-small cancer cells so it really requires the expertise of a number of fields such as Cell Biology, Structural Biology and Bioinformatics to give us better insights!
Use one word to describe a main take-away from the Canadian Glycomics Symposium.
For me, I would say that ‘knowledge-translation’ was an important take-away, which was emphasized by Torah Kachur in her keynote talk where she inspired and encouraged scientists to communicate their science and knowledge to the general public.
Name one new person you connected with in the last Symposium you attended.
I am in contact with Dr. David Vocadlo’s lab at Simon Fraser University and they share reagents such as 5-thio-GlcNAc with the lab I am in at Ryerson University, but I met him in-person during the Symposium when he visited my poster!
What do you do when you are not in the lab?
I try to spend most of my time with my family and friends when I am not in the lab. I also engage in many learning and teaching activities (e.g. workshops and seminars) centered around literature about Pedagogy in Higher Education.
If you had to choose a completely different career path, what would it be?
I would have probably trained to be a high school science teacher since I enjoy science and teaching. But, when I started working in the laboratory, I just knew that academia is where I want to be.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years… I see myself as starting my own lab! I get tremendous support here at Ryerson University as well as from my supervisors and collaborators which really provide me with confidence to continue and grow into a leader in academia.