Q: What is your role in health research?
A: I am a PhD student working with principal investigator Dr. Alex Wyatt at the Vancouver Prostate Centre (VPC).
Q: What is your research area of interest, and what led you to that interest?
A: Broadly, I study the genomics of genitourinary cancer, including the prostate, bladder and kidneys. I’m also particularly interested in circulating tumour DNA, which is the DNA released by dead and dying cancer cells, as a means of non-invasively profiling the tumour genome.
I came to Dr. Wyatt’s lab after an undergraduate summer studentship with a different researcher at the same research centre. By chance, Dr. Wyatt was looking for a new graduate student just as I was finishing my Bachelor of Science degree. I started at VPC as a Master’s student and have since transferred into the PhD program.
Q: What does your average day look like?
A: On a typical day, I’m most likely in the wet-lab (named so because working in the lab involves handling various chemicals and potential wet hazards) working on a number of activities, such as extracting DNA from blood samples, preparing DNA libraries for next-generation sequencing, performing quantitative and qualitative assessments of DNA, and sorting, labelling and boxing samples for our BioBank.
Otherwise, you’ll probably find me at my computer, reviewing data and looking for patterns that will direct my analyses and eventual manuscript writing.
Q: What is one of the proudest moments of your research career so far?
A: At this point, I’m fairly used to giving presentations in front of academics and large groups; however, my proudest moment came this past April when I was invited to give a seminar at the Kidney Cancer Canada Patient and Caregiver Forum. It was an incredible opportunity to engage with the very people who I hope to help through my work and to answer their questions about the role of research in the Canadian health care system.
Q: What’s one thing we might be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m absolutely obsessed with holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas! Every year I go all out for the VPC Halloween costume contest and turn my office into a spooky graveyard. At Christmas I’m even worse, and have even been granted the honorary title “Chief Executive of Christmas” for my role in planning the annual VPC holiday party.
Q: What would you do if you weren’t a researcher?
A: I’ve always said that if I didn’t go into science, I’d be an event planner.
When I’m not at the lab, I’m running my non-profit, the Debate and Speech Association of BC. It involves hosting lots of tournaments, conferences and meetings. So if science doesn’t work out, I’m sure I could make a career out of that.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
A: I love to travel and have already visited 25 countries. If I could go anywhere right now, I would love to go back to Southeast Asia – probably Vietnam or Thailand. The weather is incredible, the food is delicious and the people are so friendly!
Q: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
A: Things aren’t always going to go exactly as planned. Plan as you go and don’t let any perceived “failures” undermine the continued pursuit of your goals!