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IMSMAGAZINE THINK, LEARN, DISCOVER.

LIFE AFTER IMS Check out what the former IMSSA president is doing now!

SPOTLIGHT

Find out about the exciting and unique research our students and faculty are pursuing!

ITY RS VE DI OF SCIENCE EXPERT ADVICE

The experts have weighed in on your pressing IMS issues...

WINTER 2011


TABLE OF CONTENTS

IN THIS ISSUE... Letter from the Editor ......................03 News and Views .............................04 Director’s Message .........................07 Feature Article ................................08 Spotlight ..........................................12 Close Up ..........................................24 Research Highlight ..........................26

08

Behind the Scenes ..........................28 Future Directions .............................30 Ask the Experts ...............................32 Diversions .......................................33

FEATURE

Strength in Diversity Dr. Ori Rotstein explains how we are bridging the gap between science and medicine here at the Institute of Medical Science.

MAGAZINE STAFF Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor IMS Advisor Content Committee

Natalie Venier Avi Vandersluis Kamila Lear Nina Bahl Anthony Grieco Zeynep Yilmaz Samantha Bremner Minji Kim Wenjun Xu Mohammed Sabri Wilson Yu Design Editors Diego Accorsi Joyce Hui Beatrice Lau Julie Man Photography Connie Sun

19

Genomics

A look into one of our very own’s use of the zebrafish model for innovative discoveries.

26

Childhood Aggression

Dr. Joseph Beitchman outlines the latest findings in the genetics of childhood aggression.

Cover Art IMSMAGAZINE

By Walid Aziz MScBMC Candidate

THINK, LEARN, DISCOVER.

LIFE AFTER IMS Check out what the former IMSSA president is doing now!

SPOTLIGHT

Find out about the exciting and unique research our students and faculty are pursuing!

This abstract design is meant to highlight the many different sites DIVERSITY across Toronto at which IMS students and faculty are contributing OF SCIENCE to the wide body of scientific research. The spheres – which each represent a single location – are interconnected, much like the networking done between collaborators. EXPERT ADVICE

The experts have weighed in on your pressing IMS issues...

02 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

WINTER 2011


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

L

Letter from the Editor

ike all scientific endeavours, the IMS Magazine began as but a simple concept. After an inspiring experience at IMS Scientific Day in which I was amazed at the wealth of diverse research being conducted by our students and faculty, I wondered why we are only exposed to each other’s work once a year. I wanted to showcase the vast array of research areas being studied by IMS students and faculty, with the hope that this might promote more interaction and collaboration. More specifically, my plan was to develop a way to highlight the science and research going on at the IMS in a cohesive manner that could be clearly understood by any member of the IMS.

The IMS Magazine Committee has worked diligently to present you the first edition of the IMS Magazine. In this edition, which focuses on the diversity of science in the IMS, you will find an assortment of student and faculty profiles that represents the range of research taking place here. Hopefully, these will provide you with insight into their unique studies and experiences in the department. Additionally, there are also other sections such as News and Views, which will keep you informed about current events and updates, and Future Directions, where you can read about a former IMS student’s journey beyond his PhD. We hope you find each section enjoyable and informative.

Natalie Venier

Editor-In-Chief Natalie Venier is a second year MSc student who plans to transfer into the PhD program. She is currently studying prostate cancer chemoprevention at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

The evolution of the IMS magazine has been an enriching and incredible experience for me. I have had the opportunity to meet and interview both world-class and up-and-coming scientists, an experience which has been simply inspirational. Of course, this project could not have been realized without the help of the fantastic IMS Magazine Committee that has been essential in bringing this idea to life. Furthermore, I would like to acknowledge the brilliant IMS Magazine design team – a collection of incredibly talented Biomedical Communications students – who were integral to the creation of the IMS Magazine. In summary, it is my absolute pleasure to present to you the first edition of the IMS Magazine! I hope you enjoy learning about the ongoing science at the IMS and can appreciate the broad spectrum of scholarly activity in the department. Of course, your comments and feedback are very much welcome, as we aspire to bring you the best of the IMS. Enjoy!

Natalie Venier Editor-In-Chief, IMS Magazine

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 03


NEWS & VIEWS

NEWS& VIEWS Feedback: Please send your comments and suggestions to theimsmagazine@gmail.com

JANUARY

20 26 TBA TBA

Orientation Day Opera Night: Magic Flute Look out for an IMSSA Pub Night! Student-Supervisor Relationship Workshop (Jan/Feb)

FEBRUARY

1 10 12 17 23

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers Hockey Game Thesis defense workshop IMS Open House

1 TBA

CIHR Operating Grant Deadline Look out for an IMSSA Pub Night!

Transfer to PhD workshop

For information on IMS news and events, please see: http://www.ims.utoronto.ca

Toronto Raptors vs. Chicago Bulls Basketball Game

For more information on IMSSA/IMSSA-related events please visit: http://imssa.sa.utoronto.ca

IMS STAFF ANNOUNCEMENTS Congratulations! The IMS is delighted to announce that Dianne Fukunaga has accepted the position as the Student and Faculty Affairs Coordinator at IMS. This is a well-deserved promotion for Dianne. Her responsibilities will include managing the MSC1010/1011Y course and modules, awards, faculty appointments, and courses. The IMS will be recruiting to fill the Program Assistant position. Thank you! Dr. Neeru Gupta will be finishing her term as the Director of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) this year. Dr. Gupta was responsible for the development and implementation of SURP. Under her directorship, the program has grown significantly over the years, attracting both domestic and international students. The IMS would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Dr. Gupta for her dedication and outstanding contributions to SURP. Best of luck in all your future endeavours! Warm welcome! It is also with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Dr. Vasundara Venkateswaran as the new Director of SURP. We are thrilled to have you on board and we look forward to your guidance and leadership!

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MARCH

GENERAL STREAM UPDATE New Winter Modules 2011 Clinical Insights for Non-Clinicians Clinical Trials English Language & Writing Support Introduction to Biostatistics Preclinical Models Protein Mass Spectrometry To find out about the new winter modules, click here: http://www.ims.utoronto.ca/ Assets/IMS+Digital+Assets/ TR+Modules.pdf


NEWS & VIEWS

STUDENT FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES, SCHOLARSHIPS & AWARDS Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

We are pleased to announce that the results of the 2010 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships awarded by CIHR are now available. All four of the prestigious scholarships were awarded to IMS students! Congratulations to the following students: Wigdan Al-Sukhni, Nigil Haroon, Janine Hutson, Jonathan Yeung

NEW FACULTY MEMBERS

Anne-Marie Guerguerian

Associate Member of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children.

Anna Gagliardi

Associate Member of Surgery, Toronto General Hospital.

Gustavo Saposnik

Associate Member of Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital.

Narinder Paul

Associate Member of Medical Imaging, Toronto General Hospital.

Douglas Lee

Member of Medicine, Toronto General Hospital.

Evdokia Anagnostou

Member of Paediatrics, Bloorview Research Institute.

Aleixo Muise

Associate Member of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children.

David Cherney

Associate Member of Medicine, Toronto General Hospital.

Click here for more information: http://www.vanier.gc.ca/hp-pa-eng.shtml

Ranju Ralhan

Associate Member of Otolaryngology, Mount Sinai Hospital.

Marianne Koritzinsky

Associate Member of Radiation Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital.

RECENT PUBLICATIONS & AWARDS Gomez D et al. Hips can lie: The impact of excluding isolated hip fractures on external

benchmarking of trauma center performance. The Journal of Trauma. 2010 Nov; 69(5):1037-1041.

Gomez D et al. Controversies in the management of splenic trauma. Injury. 2010 Oct. [Epub ahead of print].

Haas B et al. Survival of the fittest: The hidden cost of undertriage of major trauma. Journal of the American College of Surgeons. 2010 Dec; 211(6):804-11.

Hoang-Kim A. The First International Society for Fracture Repair and International

Osteoporosis Foundation. Osteoporosis: From evidence to action. Combined Symposium & Working Groups. Adv Orthop 2010; 2(1):15-18.

Haroon Nand Inman RD. Ankylosing spondylitis - new criteria, new treatments. Bull NYU Hosp Jt Dis. 2010; 68(3):171-4.

Haroon Net al. From gene expression to serum proteins: biomarker discovery in ankylosing spondylitis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2010 Jan; 69(1):297-300.

Nazemian Z et al. The effect of age on in vitro fertilization outcome: is too young possible? J Assist Reprod Genet. 2010 Nov 2. [Epub ahead of print]

Noor A et al. Disruption at the PTCHD1 Locus on Xp22.11 in Autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. Sci Transl Med. 2010 Sep 15; 2(49):49-68

Sabri M, et al. Statins: a potential therapeutic addition to treatment for aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage?. W.Neurosurg. 2010 Jun; 73(6):646-53.

Sabri M, et al. Uncoupling of endothelial nitric oxide synthase after experimental subarachnoid hemorrhage. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2010 Jun 2. [Epub ahead of print]

Noor A. American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), Predoctoral Presentation Award semifinalist, 60th Annual Meeting, Nov, 2010; Washington DC, USA.

Sabri M, 2010-2011 Brain Aneurysm foundation grant, USA (BAF). Awarded for work on eNOS uncoupling after subarachnoid hemorrhage in a novel mouse model.

Shabana AA, 2010-11 Faculty of Medicine OGSST Awards competition and received the

Government of Ontario/Edward Dunlop Foundation Scholarships in Science and Technology.

Yilmaz Z. 2010-2011 Government of Ontario/Paul and Adelle Deacon Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology (OGSST).

Paul Wales

Associate Member of Surgery, Hospital for Sick Children.

Joel Ray

Associate Member of Medicine, University of Toronto.

Asim Cheema

Associate Member of Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital.

Scott Beattie

Associate Member of Anaesthesia, Toronto General Hospital.

Sharon Dell

Associate Member of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children.

Ariel Graff-Guerrero

Associate Member of Psychiatry, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

George Yousef

Associate Member of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. St. Michael’s Hospital.

Edward Chow

Associate Member of Radiation OncologySunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Kim Connelly

Associate Member of Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital.

Marc Jeschke

Member of Surgery, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Fiona Webster

Associate Member of Surgery, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Mary Pat McAndrews

Member of Psychology, Toronto Western Hospital.

Andras Nagy

Member of Molecular Genetics, Mount Sinai Hospital.

Gabrielle Boulianne

Full Member of Molecular Genetics, Hospital for Sick Children.

Amy Cheung

Associate Member of Psychiatry, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Claudia dos Santos

Associate of Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital.

Lendra Friesen

Associate Member of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Rohan Ganguli

Full Member of Psychiatry, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Muhammad Mamdani

Associate Member of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, St. Michael’s Hospital.

Theo Moraes

Associate Member of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children.

Patricia O’Campo

Full Member of Dalla Lana School of Public Health, St. Michael’s Hospital.

Teresa Petrella

Associate Member of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Ayal Schaffer

IN MEMORIAM

The IMS is deeply saddened to announce the sudden and tragic passing of IMS student, Sara Al-Bader and her husband, Mike Smoughton. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends at this difficult time.

Associate Member of Psychiatry, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Hong-Shuo Sun

Associate Member of Surgery, University of Toronto.

Taufik Ali Valiante

Associate Member of Surgery, Toronto Western Hospital.

Find out more about faculty on the IMS faculty database: http://www.ims.utoronto.ca/faculty/ directory.htm

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 05


TABLE OF CONTENTS

IN THIS ISSUE...

Cover

By Walid Aziz, MScBMC Candidate Each sphere represents a location at which IMS is contributing to the body of scientific research.

Letter from the Editor ......................00 News and Views .............................00 Director’s Message .........................00 Feature Article ................................00 Spotlight ..........................................00

00

Close Up ..........................................00

FEATURE

Research Highlight ..........................00 Behind the Scenes ..........................00

Diversity of Science at IMS How we are bridging the gap between science and medicine here at the Institue of Medical Science.

Future Directions .............................00

00

Ask the Expert .................................00 Diversions .......................................00

Professional Programs

Learn about the Biomedical Communications, Radiation Sciences and Bioethics professional streams.

MAGAZINE STAFF Editor-in-Chief Natalie Venier Managing Editor Avi Vandersluis Content Committee Nina Bahl Anthony Grieco Zeynep Yilmaz Samantha Bremner Minji Kim Wenjun Xu Mohammed Sabri Wilson Yu Design Editors Diego Accorsi Joyce Hui Beatrice Lau Julie Man Photography Connie Sun

02 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

00

Genomics

A look into one of our very own’s use of the zebrafish model for innovative discoveries

00

Childhood Aggression

Dr. Joseph Beitchman outlines the latest findings in the genetics of childhood aggression.


DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE

Director’s Message Dear colleagues: It is a tremendous honour to be able to participate in the inaugural edition of the IMS Magazine. Up front, I would like to extend my congratulations to Natalie Venier and her editorial team for conceptualizing and bringing to fruition a new Journal which highlights the breadth and diversity of research in the IMS. I personally experience these unique aspects of the IMS when I meet monthly for breakfast with a dozen of our first year students. Together we share who we are, where we came from, why we are at the IMS and what our research projects are. Our students come to the IMS from around the world, attracted by our excellent faculty and by the opportunity to address research questions using methodologies ranging from fundamental science in cell systems to in vivo studies in experimental models of human disease to patientoriented research using human subjects, administrative databases and qualitative research approaches. The common thread in this diverse range of approaches is the desire to better understand the human condition with the hope and expectation that this new knowledge will be applied to the prevention and treatment of disease. In the IMS, we have wholeheartedly embraced this translational approach to science through the development of new courses in our curriculum highlighting translational research, through our activities at the annual IMS Scientific Day and through our lecture series in our summer student program. The IMS Magazine will provide another medium through which translational research will be highlighted. You will learn more about our students and our faculty and how their work relates in some way to the goal of improving health and preventing disease. Hopefully, the vignettes will energize both our students and faculty to seek out potential collaborative interactions. Individuals from outside our department will begin to understand the excitement of research in the IMS and seek us out as a venue for graduate training. In closing, I’d like to again recognize Natalie and her team for initiating this unique project and to take this opportunity to wish you the best for the holiday season and for a happy and healthy 2011.

Ori D. Rotstein, MD

Director, IMS Dr. Ori Rotstein has been the Director of the IMS since 2000. He is also the Surgeon-in-Chief of the Department of Surgery and Division of General Surgery at St. Michael’s Hospital. In addition, he is a scientist in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital and a professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto.

Enjoy!

Ori D. Rotstein, MD Director, Institute of Medical Science University of Toronto

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 07


FEATURE

STRENGTH

diversity

in

By Ori D. Rotstein, MD, Director, Institute of Medical Science

The IMS was established as an institute within the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) in 1968. At the time of its inception, its major purpose was to provide a graduate department in which clinical faculty at the University of Toronto who were engaged in research could serve as supervisors for clinical trainees desiring to pursue formal graduate training at the University of Toronto.

F

ew would have predicted at the time that the IMS would grow and flourish to become one of the largest graduate units at the University of Toronto and the largest in the Faculty of Medicine, with over 600 graduate faculty members and over 450 graduate students. Part of this growth has been related to the addition of a number of non-clinician scientists to its faculty ranks. These individuals may be scientists, whose primary affiliation is with a clinical department in the university or alternatively, or they may have primary appointments in other graduate departments with cross appointment to the IMS for the purpose of having access to our students. The student numbers have also swelled due to the attraction of non-MD students to our graduate training streams. At present, more than half of IMS students are non-MD in background. The majority of these are individuals entering graduate training following completion of their undergraduate degrees. However, other health care professionals, such as those in Nursing, Rehabilitation Science, Social Work and Speech-Language Pathology, often seek research graduate training after completing their professional degrees. The Faculty of Nursing, the Faculty of Social Work, and the Department of Rehabilitation Science have their own graduate programs, but many of these health

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care professionals continue to carry out doctoral studies in the IMS due to the broad range of graduate research training opportunities (e.g. bioethics, clinical and evaluative studies). From this description of our faculty and student body alone, one can appreciate the incredible diversity of the individuals participating in graduate training in the IMS. Our diversity does not stop there, however. IMS students and faculty are widely dispersed throughout various sites affiliated with the University of Toronto Health Science Network. This includes nine affiliated teaching hospitals, hospitalbased research institutes, and University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine buildings on the university campus. Students at each of these sites carries out his/her daily research activities locally, but attend central lectures and seminars as part of their coursework on the main university campus. Further, our students perform their work in a broad range of disciplines across the health care spectrum. This is not surprising given the fact that our supervisors are derived from 12 clinical departments in the Faculty of Medicine. In addition, our faculty members have expertise across research methodologies ranging from fundamental cellular and molecular biology (including animal modeling of disease) to physiological


© 2011 Walid Aziz

FEATURE

studies in man to clinical trials to population-based research activities. In a room of a dozen first year students, it would not be surprising to hear about research on cell signaling pathways in dendritic cells, to listen to studies of sleep physiology in man, and to hear about the investigation of outcome of trauma triage strategies using large databases. With this diversity of diseases studied and methodologies used, how do we rationalize the existence of a single graduate unit? After years of hand wringing as to how to address this issue, we have grown to appreciate that this is one of our unit’s strengths. We have made translational research, i.e. the translation of biology into patient care, a priority of our department. Students are challenged to understand how

their fundamental research may lead to changes in patient care and, at the other end of the research spectrum, how basic biology and physiology influence what questions we address in our clinical research. Students from all backgrounds participate in a translational research core course, providing opportunities to understand how diversity across the spectrum of research is a critical element of advancing patient care. Our IMS Students’ Association brings our students together for social events and career development workshops. Our annual IMS Scientific Day features a plenary speaker who highlights the “bench-to-bedside and back” approach to research. Research diversity is our strength. We should continue to take advantage of it as a means of improving patient outcome and healthcare delivery.

IMS students and faculty are widely dispersed throughout various sites affiliated with the University of Toronto Health Science Network. This includes nine affiliated teaching hospitals, hospitalbased research institutes, and University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine buildings on the university campus.

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 09


FEATURE

Professional Programs MSc Biomedical Communications The Master of Science in Biomedical Communications (MScBMC), is a two-year professional Master’s degree. Biomedical Communications is an interdisciplinary profession that bridges the disciplines of art, science, medicine and communication. Theories of design and communication are combined with scientific knowledge gained from basic and clinical science courses to produce visual material for use in the teaching of science, medicine and health promotion, and the formulation of hypotheses and research goals as part of the process of scientific discovery. Through the selection of appropriate content and media, the analysis of target audience, and the evaluation of communication instruments, the effectiveness of original visual communication material is further enhanced. More information: http://www.bmc.med.utoronto.ca/ © 2011 Joyce Hui

MHSc Bioethics The Master of Health Science degree in Bioethics (MHSc) is offered in collaboration with the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics and is directed towards practitioners who wish to increase their knowledge and skills in bioethics by assisting them in their roles as clinician/teachers, as members of bioethics committees. It is a professional Master’s degree program that does not require a thesis. More information: http://www.jointcentreforbioethics.ca/education/mhsc.shtml

MHSc Medical Radiation Science The Master of Health Science in Medical Radiation Sciences (MHScMRS) is designed specifically to develop the kind of advanced academic clinician who is in demand in contemporary radiation medicine practice. Graduates of the program will fill the cancer care system’s need for advanced, expert, and academic radiation therapists: a breed of professionals who continue to challenge the boundaries of practice, contribute to accelerating the pace of radiotherapy innovation and take clinical and academic endeavours to new levels. More information: http://www.radonc.utoronto.ca/future-students/programs/ mhsc-in-medical-radiation-sciences

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FEATURE

2010 IMS Enrolment Statistics total number of students

504

240

MSc

221

PhD Direct Entry PhD MD/ PhD

30 13

52

Clinician Investigator Program 22 19 11

58

IMS Professional Programs 0 26 32

MSc

Biomedical Communications

PhD

Bioethics

Direct Entry PhD

Radiation Sciences

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 11


SPOTLIGHT

Paul Kelly

STREAM MSc Biomedical Communications SUPERVISOR Nick Woolridge

Dynamic Visualization Helps Understand Concussions

G

rowing up in Chicago, Illinois, Paul Kelly had two passions: art and science. After high school, however, he moved to Michigan to begin a degree in engineering. Two years into the program, he realized he wanted to fulfil his keen interest in science and human movement. Kelly moved back to his hometown to pursue a kinesiology degree at the University of Illinois, and while in his second year, attended a fascinating lecture about medical illustration. Enthused and inspired, he enrolled in additional art classes to enhance his artistic skills and to better his portfolio. At the same time, he came across the Master of Science in Biomedical Communications (MScBMC) professional program at the University of Toronto. Kelly immediately knew he wanted to join the BMC program, offered through the IMS. One of only five accredited graduate programs of its kind, and unique in Canada, Kelly found it extremely appealing. “BMC encouraged pushing boundaries and forward thinking, unlike other programs which

only focused on improving established techniques,” he notes. He liked BMC’s emphasis on technology and was very impressed with the work of the program’s previous students. Additionally, coming from the United States, Kelly saw a great opportunity to gain exposure to an alternative system of healthcare. “I was very excited to be studying in the cultural diversity of Toronto, where meeting people from many different backgrounds could also teach me more about how to communicate to a wide variety of audiences,” he states. Currently in his second year of the program, Kelly has a clear passion for research. He is working on dynamic 3-D visualization of sport-related concussions. Using dynamic visuals, he shows what happens in the brain when an individual has a concussion. Kelly hopes his research will help change the understanding and attitudes about concussions in contact sports. In a time when sport-related concussions are gaining awareness, Kelly’s research is quite important. “Biomedical communication sets a mental template for the population – it provides a framework for

medicine and science and a visual image to build information on,” he explains. Through collaboration with his contact advisors Dr. Doug Richards, Dr. Anne Agur, and Nick Woolridge, who are essential to guiding him through his project and providing their support and expert advice, Kelly has been progressing well. He has also been in contact with such organizations as U of T’s BrainFit Lab, which is currently conducting several research studies into the effects of concussions on young athletes. Kelly is clearly enjoying his experience at BMC, but he acknowledges that it is not easy. He confesses to putting in more than 60-70 hours of work in some weeks. When asked about his favourite experience at BMC thus far, though, Kelly hesitates. “That’s a difficult question. I would say it would have to be working together with so many talented people, as colleagues. You feed off of each other’s ideas. It’s an incredible work environment filled with energy,” he replies. Although he recommends the BMC program to students interested in medical illustration, Kelly stresses that they should come prepared. He suggests starting early; taking art classes throughout undergraduate studies will help develop a really good portfolio and gain important skills for the program. “Starting the program with confidence in your tools and art skills gives you the freedom to play around with layouts and perspective,” says Kelly, “but BMC places the strongest emphasis on a good scientific background in its potential students.” Moving forward, Kelly is certain that he will continue to pursue biomedical research and medical illustrating after his MSc. He hopes to continue working on 3-D work in Toronto and aspires to one day work for IN VIVO or AXS.

The above illustrations were created by Kelly to depict the process that occurs when one undergoes a sports-related concussion.

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Interview by Natalie Venier


SPOTLIGHT

Ayesha Malik

STREAM MSc SUPERVISOR Dr. Joseph Beitchman

Discovering the Role of Genes in Aggressive Behaviour

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ative to Mississauga, Ontario, Ayesha Malik completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She is currently a first year MSc student at the IMS, and her research focuses on the genetic variance of oxytocin and its association with childhoodonset aggression. Additionally, Malik will be responsible for recruiting psychiatrically normal child controls in order to compare them to aggressive children. When asked about how she decided to focus her research on childhood aggression, Malik passionately states that she is very interested in behaviour and genetics. “Psychiatric genetics is a very new and exciting research area,” she says, adding that “biology and genetics greatly contribute to the environment individuals choose for themselves, and genetic influences interact with environmental factors to further shape behaviour.” Despite coming from a more biological background and having focused on the genetics of drosophila for her undergraduate thesis, Malik has always been interested in psychology. “I took many psychology courses during my undergraduate studies, and I deliberately chose to move away from studying animal models as they are not always adequate to study the full range of behaviours that are displayed by humans,” she says. She chose to do her MSc work with Dr. Beitchman because of his holistic approach to understanding aggressive behaviour in children, which utilizes genetic methods as well as the study of traits and other psychological factors.

versity of research opportunities. “The IMS is currently the best option for any student interested in psychiatric genetics; although other departments have comparable options, they are very specific and narrow in terms of research focus,” she adds. When asked if she would recommend the IMS to others, she smiles and says without hesitation, “Most definitely! Wherever I go, be it courses offered by the Graduate Professional Skills Program or any other campus activity, I see other students from the IMS.” A current memberat-large of the Institute of Medical Science Students’ Association (IMSSA), Malik believes that joining the student organization and attending its various events is a great way to meet new people. She is also a member of the IMSSA’s new Frosh Activities Commit-

tee, and she is looking forward to giving the incoming students a better opportunity to feel like they belong to a diverse but friendly community. Malik has her eyes set on an academic career. Being very passionate about teaching, she aspires to work in a university setting. For her PhD project, she is interested in conducting functional studies to link genetic variants to RNA and protein expression. Malik truly enjoys the research process and aims to continue in the research field because “it is very gratifying to see the results of your experiments and to know that they may make a difference in people’s lives in the future.” Interview by Zeynep Yilmaz

Malik, who currently holds a NSERC CGSM Master’s Award and an IMS Entrance Scholarship, chose the IMS instead of other graduate departments because of the di-

The Oxytocin Gene

•The oxytocin gene encodes for the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which plays an important role in pair-bonding. •Oxytocin also is a key player in social approach behaviours, and aggressive behaviours may be linked to low levels of oxytocin activity. •For more information, see: Oxytocin: The Great Facilitator of Life

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 13


SPOTLIGHT

Wojciech Kostelecki

STREAM PhD SUPERVISOR Dr. Jose Luis Perez Velazquez

Making Sense of the Brain

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ojciech Kostelecki has always had an avid interest in neuroscience. As an undergraduate student studying at the University of Toronto, he joined Dr. Zhong-Ping Feng’s Molecular Biology and Electrophysiology lab, where he was involved in numerous interesting experiments, including testing the effects of gene mutations on the biophysical properties of ion channels. A both positive and enriching experience, Kostelecki’s time with Dr. Feng motivated and prepared him for a career in research. In the summer of 2008, Kostelecki decided to join the IMS as a MSc candidate under the direction of Dr. Jose Luis Perez Velazquez. Naturally, with his strong background and fascination with neuroscience, Kostelecki found that Dr. Perez Velazquez’s research seeking relationships between brain function and behaviour suited him well, and he has since transferred to the PhD program. Kostelecki is currently working on developing novel statistical methods for analyzing neuro-imaging data. Having conducted hands-on research as an undergraduate student, Kostelecki experienced a big transition

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upon entering graduate school, where his work thus far has been mostly analytical. This transition, however, has been both challenging and rewarding, and it has enabled him to grow as a researcher. Furthermore, exposure to a different type of research has provided Kostelecki with the freedom and opportunity to be more creative intellectually, which has thus aided his research. Kostelecki is quite accomplished and has been the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships. In his first year in the IMS, he received funding from the Hospital for Sick Children’s ResTraComp program, which is intended to enable research fellows to pursue research fellowship training. In his second year, he received a NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship. Currently, he holds a second NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship. Additionally, as a result of his lab experience with Dr. Feng, he has coauthored publications in PLoS Genetics and the European Journal of Pharmacology. In both instances, Kostelecki assisted with the experiments and the data acquisition, and played an active role in the preparation of the manuscripts. Recently, Kostelecki pub-

lished in Cognitive Neurodynamics as the second author. Most excitingly, however, he is currently completing a manuscript on the development of new methods for detecting causal relationships in neuro-imaging data, of which he will be the first author. Although the preparation of this paper has been a challenge – it required describing complex mathematical methods and analysis – he has found it incredibly rewarding. Looking back at his experience, Kostelecki recommends the IMS to all potential graduate students. Regardless of one’s research interests, he believes that with the vast array of supervisors from which to choose, there is someone for everyone. He has found the administrative staff and his program advisory committee members to be very helpful throughout his graduate studies at the IMS, and encourages choosing individuals who are supportive and with whom it is easy to get along. Kostelecki is excited for what his future holds, and is looking forward to continued success as a doctoral student.

Interview by Anthony Grieco


SPOTLIGHT

D

espite being in the city for less than four years, Dr. Zahi Touma has helped uphold the University of Toronto’s reputation of excellence in clinical research. For the first time in decades, Touma and colleagues have given hope to lupus sufferers regarding treatment development with their novel outcome measure of the disease’s activity.

Zahi Touma

STREAM PhD Clinician Investigator Program SUPERVISOR Dr. Murray B. Urowitz & Dr. Dafna D. Gladman

Novel Disease Index Generates Hope for Improved Lupus Management

Following medical training at Kursk State Medical University in Russia, Touma completed three years of internal medicine training at the American University of Beirut in his home country of Lebanon. It was during a subsequent sub-specialty in rheumatology that he began to identify areas of lupus management in need of improvement. “Over the last two decades or so, we haven’t had any drugs approved by the FDA for lupus treatment,” notes Touma. “There are lots of trials going on, but [no drugs] have been approved yet. I looked at [the] studies and realized it may not actually be because of drug failure, but rather that we don’t have appropriate measures to evaluate how disease activity is progressing.” Touma’s research interests progressed when he was accepted as a rheumatologist by the Department of Internal Medicine in 2007. Six months later, he joined the Institute of Medical Science to embark upon his PhD project. “I didn’t come to the IMS directly, but I knew [I wanted] to investigate clinical epidemiology, and specifically, clinical outcome measures,” he explains. Under the guidance of his supervisors, Touma has been able to develop a reliable index – the SRI-50 – with the ability to capture partial improvement in lupus disease activity, an achievement that distinguishes it from pre-existing indices.

“Over the last two decades or so, we haven’t had any drugs approved by the FDA for lupus treatment.” To validate the index, the research team continues to collect data for their prospective study at the University of Toronto Lupus Clinic by applying the SRI-50 during clinic appointments. They are also investigating implementation strategies to assist physicians keen on incorporating the tool into

their practices. Moreover, at least two drug trials have already adopted the SRI-50 as a secondary outcome measure, and several other drug companies have expressed interest in utilizing the index for future studies. Touma attributes the rapidity of the SRI50’s initial success partly to the large patient cohort he is able to access through the U of T Lupus Clinic, one of the world’s biggest centres for specialized lupus care. He is also quick to recognize those who have supported his research along the way. “My supervisors are great, and the lupus team is excellent. I also have to acknowledge the people who have been funding my stay here – [the Lupus Ontario Geoff Carr Fellowship and the University of Toronto Arthritis Centre of Excellence Fellowship]. I am extremely grateful.”

Ultimately, Touma intends to delve deeper into the field and develop another novel index related to disease activity. His passion for improving the care received by his patients is the kind that drives innovative discovery with practical, clinical applications. Interview by Nina Bahl Further reading regarding the SRI-50: Touma Z, Gladman DD, Ibañez D and Urowitz MB. Development and Initial Validation of SLEDAI-2K (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index 2000) Responder Index-50 (SRI-50). J Rheumatol July 12, 2010 (In press). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21123323 Touma Z, Gladman DD, Mackinnon A, Urowitz MB. SLEDAI-2K Responder Index-50 (SRI-50) http://www.sri-50.com

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 15


SPOTLIGHT

“I

t was a coincidence and a perfect match!” exclaims Ann Montgomery. She is referring to her journey to graduate school in the IMS, which she admits is like fitting a missing piece into a puzzle. Montgomery’s academic path began at the University of Ottawa, where she completed an Honours BSc in nutritional biochemistry. She later earned a BHSc in midwifery at Ryerson University and has worked as a midwife and preceptor for over a decade. Extremely interested in international health and global level epidemiology, Montgomery has spent significant time in Haiti and Nepal, volunteering as a technical advisor to a non-profit organization that strives to improve maternal healthcare and midwifery training, and as a lecturer and neonatal resuscitation trainer. While working in Nepal, Montgomery witnessed the death of a 16-year-old woman due to post-partum sepsis after giving birth to twins. She realized that mortality is multifactorial and is heavily influenced by issues outside the healthcare system. As a result, in 2005, she pursued a MSc in epidemiology from the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at the University of London in the UK, concentrating on maternal morbidity in the Sub-Sahara in Africa. Around the time of her completion of her MSc degree, Montgomery was contacted by the Centre for Global Health Research, a group that is affiliated with St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto, and whose mission is to conduct high-quality research that advances global health. In collaboration with the Registrar’s General of India, a statistical firm, Montgomery was asked to shed light on the cause of maternal death during birth in India. She enrolled in the IMS in 2010, and is currently conducting this project for her thesis.

Improving Maternal Healthcare Abroad

It is believed that in the absence of prenatal care or a skilled birth attendant, mothers are at a higher risk of mortality during childbirth. In developed countries, where the major cause is hemorrhage, trained birth attendants can focus appropriately only on hemorrhage. In India, however, according to Montgomery’s preliminary results, post-partum sepsis is the leading cause of childbirth-related mortality, despite the fact that it can be significantly reduced through the use of antibiotics. Another interesting

As a mother of two kids, Montgomery is very busy and fully occupied all the time. She is the Vice-President of the College of Midwives of Ontario and the Chair of its Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee. She is also the author of two publications and a book chapter about the role of skilled birth attendants in maternal deaths. Montgomery is enjoying her life as a student and revels in the flexibility and balanced lifestyle it provides her. She is very grateful to her supervisor, Dr. Prabhat Jha, for his involvement

16 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

Ann Montgomery area that Montgomery is focusing on, and that is especially relevant to her, is the effect of the presence of a midwife on the number of maternal deaths. She is currently sorting through thousands of maternal death cases. Although she foresees mechanical glitches and analytical limitations, she is confident that they can be overcome. Upon completion, her study will form the basis for future policy-making strategies pertaining to maternal deaths in India.

STREAM MSc SUPERVISOR Dr. Prabhat Jha

in her research and support for her future career development. As her journey goes on, Montgomery is looking forward, and hopes to continue to meet new and interesting people and make a difference in their lives. Interview by Wenjun Xu Publications: Montgomery A. If Women Counted: The Role of Skilled Birth Attendants in Surveillance of Maternal Deaths. In: Elit L, Chamberlain Froese J editors. Women’s Health in the Majority World: Issues and Initiatives. New York: Nova Science Publishers; 2007; 35-48. Montgomery AL, Goufodji S, Kanhonou L, Alihonou E, Azondekon A, Houngbè J, Collin S, Filippi V. Validity and reliability of postpartum morbidity questionnaires in Benin. J Biosoc Sci, Submitted. Montgomery AL, Morris SK, Kumar R, Jotkar R, Mony P, Jha P, Bassani DG. Capturing the context of matenral deaths from verbal autopsies: a reliability study of the maternal data extraction tool (M-DET). Plos One, Submitted.


SPOTLIGHT

FACULTY VIEW

Q&A with...

Dr. Karen Davis PhD

O

n the list of Dr. Karen Davis’ interests, cycling, hockey, music, film and travel rank highly. But of all of her passions, researching the brain mechanisms underlying pain and analgesia tops the list. Now the Head of the Division of Brain, Imaging and Behaviour-Systems Neuroscience at the Toronto Western Research Institute, the IMS’ Associate Director’s journey started in high school, when she first realized her love for neuroscience.

From early on in her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, Dr. Davis sought out research opportunities. She spent two summers researching pain with two world-renowned electro-physiologists. These experiences motivated her to complete her PhD as well as two post-doctoral fellowships, including one at Johns Hopkins University that proved to be a turning point in her training as a scientist. Being in a multidisciplinary lab, Dr. Davis was exposed to clinical studies of nociception, interacted with chronic pain patients, and learned human psychophysical techniques. This clinical exposure shaped her appreciation of the sensori-motor and cognitive problems experienced by chronic pain patients, and taught her the importance of carefully considering these nuances in any laboratory study. Upon returning to Toronto, Dr. Davis engaged in more clinically-relevant and human-based studies of pain, and together with a neuroradiologist at TWH, also began developing functional MRI. Shortly thereafter, she obtained a faculty position and set up her own research lab.

Dr. Davis’ lab is currently interested in human neuro-imaging and psychophysical studies of pain and attention. To facilitate these studies, she has developed numerous clinical collaborations and she has been very successful in attaining funding. As a result, Dr. Davis’ lab continues to produce groundbreaking work, with several neuro-imaging studies leading the field. For Dr. Davis, these new discoveries are the ultimate reward. In addition to her research, Dr. Davis’ contributions to the IMS department and her scientific community are astounding. Beginning as a member of the admissions committee, she became a graduate coordinator in 2002, and in 2009 took on the role of IMS’ Associate Director. Of note, she helped develop and publish the IMS Graduate Oath. Dr. Davis is also a member of numerous advisory boards and is the Section Editor for the journal Pain. Dr. Davis understands what it takes to get started in her field. While having a short- and long-term research plan is crucial, she believes it is equally important to keep an open mind to new directions and concepts to keep research fresh and relevant. She recommends young scientists familiarize themselves with existing pain literature as well as the potential contribution of other systems to pain. For her final piece of advice, Dr. Davis reverts to her own experiences. “It is very important for non-clinician scientists to spend some time with clinicians and patients, enabling them to better design their research questions and models,” she stresses. Interview by Avi Vandersluis

Dr. Tom Waddell

MSc, FRCSC, PhD, MD

The lung transplant surgeon sat down with us to discuss his path, his research, and the future of his field.

AV: You are a well-established surgeon and senior scientist at Toronto General Hospital. How did you get to where you are today? TW: I attended medical school in Ottawa before doing my general surgery residency in Toronto. Afterwards, I joined the Surgeon Scientist Program at U of T where I earned a MSc in lung transplantation and a PhD in cell biology. I then completed general surgery, with a focus on thoracic surgery, and finally did a post-doc fellowship in London, England, before returning to Toronto. AV: How did you get involved with the IMS? TW: My MSc and PhD were actually done with the IMS. When I decided that I wanted my own lab, the IMS was a natural home. AV: What type of research is being conducted in your lab? TW: We’re looking at alternative treatments for end-stage lung disease. I got involved in this field through my experience as a lung transplant surgeon. Currently, we are pursuing the potential of cell therapy for advanced patients. I think the future will be very improved with many more cell types to be isolated, expanded, and controlled. AV: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? TW: Watching the evolution of young scientists from undergraduate students to true researchers. It’s important to remember that persistence is the most critical ingredient for success. To find out about Dr. Waddell’s Clinical Insights for Non-Clinicians module, click here. -Avi Vandersluis

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 17


SPOTLIGHT

Barto Nascimento

STREAM MSc Clinician Investigator Program SUPERVISOR Dr. Sandro Rizoli

Changing the Face of Trauma Management

B

orn and raised in Brazil, Dr. Barto Nascimento grew up a talented and promising soccer player. When his soccer career was cut short, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and pursue a career in medicine. During his medical training and residency, he developed a keen interest in trauma surgery and critical care medicine. In 2004, upon moving to Toronto, Nascimento began working at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre – one of Canada’s largest trauma centres – where he has since completed a series of fellowships including Trauma Research, Critical Care Medicine, and Transfusion Medicine. Passionately interested in research, in 2008, Nascimento chose to enrol in the Clinician Investigator Program at the IMS, where he is currently completing his MSc in clinical epidemiology while maintaining his clinical responsibilities as a member of Sunnybrook’s Critical Care team. When asked why he decided to enrol in a graduate program, Nascimento emphasized that “trauma and critical care is a very competitive area. Having a Master’s degree from the IMS – a prestigious graduate program at the University of Toronto – enhances your knowledge and research skills, making you a very favourable candidate in the field.”

“It is both rewarding and gratifying to see your work improving patient care.” Nascimento is at the forefront of critical care and transfusion research, working to develop a clear understanding of how to best manage patients who present with trauma-induced coagulopathy – a disorder in which blood fails to clot normally, resulting in heavy and prolonged bleeding after traumatic injury. Unfortunately, managing such patients is very difficult. Accordingly, in the early hours of trauma, coagulopathy and bleeding are the main causes of hospital death. A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of coagulopathy could help in the development of optimal management strategies for patients arriving in the emergency room. 18 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

Currently, as part of The Trauma: Formuladriven vs. Lab-guided Randomized Controlled Trial (TRFL Study), Nascimento and a team of colleagues are assessing the coagulation status of trauma patients predicted to need massive transfusions in hopes of gaining insight into the coagulopathy process in the early stages of bleeding. Using sophisticated tests, he measures an extensive panel of clotting factors and biological markers to determine the physiological responses to trauma and bleeding. In addition to managing blood loss, Nascimento hopes to identify novel biomarkers released at the time of trauma to help identify patients with coagulopathy and ultimately improve their outcomes. Nascimento is actively involved in the trauma field, both teaching and authoring multiple peer-reviewed publications. He is also an organizing member of the Canadian Massive Transfusion Consensus Conference, where he is involved in helping to establish guidelines for massive transfusion protocols in Canada. He hopes to continue to pursue research in the future, and feels that the Clinician Investigator Program has helped him build a solid research foundation upon which he can do so. “It is flexible and practical for the clinician, who can still maintain some clinical practice while being heavily involved

in research,” Nascimento notes. “It is both rewarding and gratifying to see your work improving patient care.”

Interview by Natalie Venier

The Trauma: Formula-driven vs. Lab-guided Trial (TRFL Study) •The TRFL Study is a randomized controlled trial assessing the feasibility of adopting formuladriven blood transfusion protocols in a population of trauma patients. The aim of this study is to determine whether using this protocol is practical and/or superior to current laboratory-guided transfusion practices for treating and/or preventing early coagulopathy, and whether it will improve survival rates in massively bleeding trauma patients. •For more information, click here.


SPOTLIGHT

FACULTY VIEW

Dr. Xiao-Yan Wen MD, PhD

coming to Toronto to complete a PhD in Medical Genetics at U of T. After briefly leaving academia to get involved in a biotechnology startup company, he returned to work as a Research Associate at Toronto General Research Institute. He quickly progressed to Associate Scientist and then to Affiliate Scientist before obtaining his own independent lab in 2005. In 2009, Dr. Wen’s lab was moved to St. Michael’s Hospital, and it was there that his research has really flourished. Although his research initially utilized mouse models, Dr. Wen’s focus shifted to zebrafish as it has emerged as a superior vertebrate model for genome-wide studies. Using cutting-edge functional genomics technologies – transgenesis, gene trapping, gene knockdown, and chemical genetic screening to name a few – his lab concentrates on discovering novel drugs and on improving their understanding of organ and tissue development in order to delineate the mechanisms underlying numerous diseases. He has recently published a landmark paper with the zebrafish model, in which an anti-angiogenic chemical genetic screen for developing zebrafish embryos was employed to identify a small molecule targeting cancer angiogenesis, the first such study of its kind.

D

r. Xiao-Yan Wen’s motto is simple: work hard, work smart and enjoy science. Abiding by these three guidelines has given him much success and helped him in becoming the Founding Director of the new Zebrafish Centre for Advanced Drug Discovery, a fully automated robotic high-throughput zebrafish screening platform for which he is receiving funding

from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to create. Dr. Wen is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre, part of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital. Born and raised in China, Dr. Wen earned his MD at Jiangxi Medical College before

Preclinical Animal Models Module Module Directors

Dr. Xiao-Yan Wen Dr. Katharina Foerster

Module Coordinator

Zeynep Yilmaz

As an associate member of the IMS, Dr. Wen is making the most of his opportunity to work alongside world leaders in translational research. With high-throughput, genomewide, translational research believed to be the direction of the future, Dr. Wen hopes to continue to stay at the forefront of his fields. But at the end of the day, it all comes back to his motto. “The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to indulge my research interests every day and immerse myself in my love of science.” Interview by Avi Vandersluis

Preclinical Animal Models is an introductory module designed to teach students conducting human-subject research and non-animal basic science the most upto-date technologies in the creation of animal models, manipulating them at the molecular, cellular and whole-body levels.The model systems covered in this module include mouse, rat, zebrafish and non-human primates. Because of the diversity of research disciplines at the IMS, this module will use a wide spectrum of disease models including early embryonic defects, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, infection and immunity, diabetes, organ injury, neurological disorders, psychiatry, learning and memory.

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 19


SPOTLIGHT

Aaron Kucyi

STREAM MSc SUPERVISOR Dr. Karen Davis

Overcoming the “Pain” of First Year

A

aron Kucyi is trying to soak it all in. The guitar-playing, music enthusiast is in his first year of the MSc program at the IMS, and is the newest addition to Dr. Karen Davis’ neuro-imaging and pain laboratory at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH). Strongly attracted to the IMS’ focus on translational research, as well as the numerous opportunities to collaborate and interact with world-renowned researchers, he is still getting used to the immensity of the department. “Appreciating how vast the IMS is and the fact that it is impossible to take everything in all at once took some time,” he notes, “but I’ve already learned so much in my short time here.”

“I love how pain research bridges the gap between basic science and clinical care.”

As a biology major at York University, Kucyi had been considering a career in medicine, pharmacy, or optometry. But after completing his undergraduate thesis, in which he used fMRI to study an illusion known as the McCollough Effect, his passion for research and neuroscience flourished. Before joining the IMS, Kucyi spent a year traveling recreationally and honing his research skills in

With his initial focus of completing his course requirements and performing an indepth literature review well on its way, Kucyi is excited to explore the brain in a new light. “The study of pain provides an insight into the mystery of conscious experience and is also clinically relevant,” he enthuses. “I love how pain research bridges the gap between basic science and clinical care.” Aiming to

20 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

two different labs, work that resulted in three peer-reviewed publications and two recent poster presentations at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego. It wasn’t long before he decided to pursue research in graduate school, however, and the IMS seemed like the perfect fit. “As the largest graduate department at the University of Toronto, the IMS offered me a unique opportunity to explore my neuroscience interest with a team of top researchers in the field.”

transfer to the PhD program in the future, Kucyi strives to impact the way people think about the brain and perception, and he hopes his work will have a positive influence on patient care. Being a first-year student in such a large department can be intimidating, but Kucyi has embraced opportunities to get involved in student affairs and meet new people. Between his roles as the TWH Site Director for the IMS Students’ Association and as a member of the planning committee for TWH Research Institute’s research day, he has found his niche here at the IMS. While his future goals include a career in research and academia, he also has a special interest in the dissemination of research to the general public. Already the author of an online neuroscience blog, where he writes in lay terms about new research with the goal of branching out from the neuroscience community, Kucyi hopes to combine the experience he gains at the IMS with his love for the communication of science. Interview by Avi Vandersluis

Click here to view some of Aaron`s most recent publications.


SPOTLIGHT

Kitty Chan

STREAM MHSc Medical Radiation Science SUPERVISOR Dr. Cynthia Ménard

Radiating Care to Help Fight Cancer

W

hile obtaining her undergraduate degree in toxicology at the University of Toronto, Kitty Chan participated in a basic science research lab under the direction of Dr. W. McIntyre Burnham. Recognizing that her personality was better suited for patient care, rather than hands-on basic research, prompted Chan to look into possible job opportunities at local hospitals, where she noticed that there was a shortage of radiation therapists. Therefore, upon graduation, Chan decided to enrol in the Radiation Therapy Degree and Advanced Diploma Program offered jointly by the Michener Institute and the University of Toronto. After completing the program in 2005, Chan began working as a radiation therapist at Princess Margaret Hospital. She likes to think of her duties as being both “high tech and high touch.” Not only must she be able to operate multi-million dollar machinery with a high degree of skill, but she must also have a sense of compassion for her patients’ suffering. Personally touched by cancer in 2008 when she lost a friend to the disease, Chan experienced first-hand what is like to have

a loved one undergo the courageous battle. Although they are scared and confused, she learned that patients are also full of hope. Accordingly, rather than treating her patients as victims, she feels that it is best to truly care for them on a personal level. Two years into her career as a radiation therapist, Chan applied for and was accepted into an internal research position, where she studied how to integrate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) into radiation therapy. From this experience, she realized that marrying research with patient care leads to improved outcomes for cancer patients. Therefore, when the Master of Health Science in Medical Radiation Sciences (MHScMRS) professional program became available through the IMS in 2009, with the goal of overlapping patient care with education, Chan jumped at the opportunity. Her research focuses on implementing image-guided, high-dose-rate (IG-HDR) brachytherapy – a technique using a relatively intense source of radiation to deliver a therapeutic dose through temporarily placed needles, catheters, or other applicators – for pelvic cancer. She hopes to identify current HDR practices in Ontario for the

treatment of pelvic cancer and to develop a process map for formulating an IG-HDR protocol. Now in her second year of the program, Chan believes that she has developed invaluable skills that will help her deliver care beyond the scope of basic radiation science. By continuing to work as a radiation therapist and to witness the loving bonds between cancer patients and their families, she is also able to gain a unique perspective that she would otherwise not experience as a researcher: seeing the positive impact of her research on patient outcomes. For those interested in the MHScMRS program, Chan stresses the need for dedication and the ability to manage time. It is crucial, she says, to be able to balance one’s duties as a radiation therapist and as a researcher. Chan adds that individuals considering the program should be comfortable interacting with patients on a daily basis, and be able to translate their research findings into clinical practice. Moreover, and most importantly, she believes that one must have a sense of empathy and compassion for cancer patients, and understand that patient care is of the utmost importance.

Interview by Anthony Grieco

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 21


SPOTLIGHT

Bini Toms

STREAM MHSc Bioethics SUPERVISOR Dr. Ross Upshur

Advancing Agricultural Sciences through Bioethical Education

D

r. Bini Toms recalls growing up in India as a happy child with very traditional and religious parents who highly valued a good education. An established scientist, Toms was working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biotechnology, and as the Vice Principal, at T. John College in Bangalore, India, when she enrolled in the Master of Health Sciences (MHSc) in Bioethics professional program at the IMS as an international student. She has a background in agricultural sciences with a specialization in genetics and plant breeding. Aside from her teaching and advisory roles, Toms – who has first-hand knowledge of the need for greater research accountability and bioethical education – has dedicated herself to spreading bioethics awareness to people, especially those in non-medical life sciences, more than half way across the world. Toms first became interested in bioethics after being nominated by her organization to attend a month-long training program organized by Dr. Nandini K. Kumar and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health

and the Indian Council of Medical Research. Although most of the trainees had backgrounds in medical sciences, she correlated the ethical issues discussed in the program to the agriculture and plant biotechnology fields. “There is a close link between agriculture and healthcare, so the related ethical issues are interwoven. [Accordingly], agrimedical researchers are contributing immensely to the advancement of medicine and global health. [Thus, they must] be provided appropriate ethical guidelines…and be adequately trained and educated about the fundamental moral and ethical dilemmas posed by [these advancements],” she notes. Initially, Toms sometimes found it difficult to convince people that bioethics was integral to her discipline and to make the lessons from each class relevant. However, as a result of her “interactions with experienced, enthusiastic, and highly motivated faculty working in a variety of healthcare settings and with different educational backgrounds,” the program has given her a broad perspective on the role of bioethicists and has allowed her to cultivate the necessary skills for executing

that role. “The educational environment at the Joint Centre for Bioethics and at the IMS helped students clarify, refine, and develop their understandings of ethical issues and the responsibilities of ethicists in society,” adds Toms.

“Having colleagues from different cultural, linguistic, religious, and professional backgrounds is an experience one can never have when living in one’s own small world.” Currently completing her remaining course requirements in India, Toms describes her experience as an international student as enriching. “Having colleagues from different cultural, linguistic, religious, and professional backgrounds is an experience one can never have when living in one’s own small world,” she claims, adding that while “plunging into a full-time study program in a foreign country might seem challenging and difficult, if you are determined, sincere in your work and optimistic, you are sure to succeed.” Toms is incredibly grateful for her tremendous academic success – which includes both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate degree – prior to joining the IMS. “I attribute [it] all to the blessings of my parents and the love and support of my husband, [all of whom] have been instrumental in all my achievements. I am thankful to God for all the great people in my life.” As she works towards the completion of the MHSc program, she aspires to establish guidelines for agri-medical research in India and to integrate bioethical education into the academic curriculum for agricultural students who also contribute to health care in their capacities as researchers. Through her efforts, she hopes to continue to play a role in the advancement of the fields of agricultural sciences, plant biotechnology and clinical research. Interview by Natalie Venier & Avi Vandersluis

22 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY


SPOTLIGHT

Peter Papageorgiou

STREAM PhD SUPERVISOR Dr. John S. Floras

Connecting the Dots: The Role of beta-FXIIa in Hypertension and Chronic Renal Failure

P

eter Papageorgiou was born in Toronto, but it’s only been a few years since he became familiar with the city again. He lived in Greece until high school, where he received the International Baccalaureate diploma. Afterwards, he moved to the United Kingdom for his undergraduate studies, and was exposed to the scientific method in a research course during his final year as a student in the Faculty of Science. With his piqued interest in research, he went on to study the role of gastrin in digestion using transgenic animals. It was the complexity of biological systems and his experiences working with radioactive isotopes that truly got him hooked on research. Upon completing his undergraduate degree, Papageorgiou moved back to Toronto to pursue his love of science in a Master’s program. Along with Dr. Daniel Osmond in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto, he discovered a molecule that plays a key role in hypertension. Further research revealed that this protein was in fact the beta-fragment of activated coagulation factor XII (beta-FXIIa). Moreover, Papageorgiou found that injection of beta-FXIIa increased blood pressure and released plasma catecholamines, thereby establishing a

physiological connection between the coagulation and sympatho-adrenal systems. Hoping to delve further into the relationship between these two systems, Papageorgiou chose to pursue the project further with Dr. John Floras at the IMS. His motivation for joining the PhD program at the IMS was solely driven by his fondness for the work. With the goal of applying his in vitro work to animals and humans, the IMS’ focus on translational research was a perfect match. At the IMS, he was also able to easily form collaborations with experts from cardiology, hematology, nephrology and physiology.

“I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have had as the IMS helped me bridge my work from basic to translational research.” Now preparing for his final defense, Papageorgiou reflects that his PhD learning experience has been amazing. In a longitudinal cohort study involving hemodialysis patients and in an interventional study using an animal model of chronic renal failure, he was able to demonstrate the participation of betaFXIIa in blood pressure regulation in chronic

renal failure. His hard work has culminated in numerous conference presentations and multiple awards, including being named a Research Fellow of the International Society of Hypertension and winning an educational award from Hypertension Canada. Papageorgiou has also received funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the Oliver Studentship for Research on Kidney and Kidney-related Diseases, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Currently, Papageorgiou is working on a manuscript for the Journal of Clinical Investigation, where he aims to publish his PhD research. When asked what he likes to do during his spare time, Papageorgiou smiles. “PhD students have no spare time,” he says. Ultimately, however, he is pleased with his experiences as a graduate student. “I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have had as the IMS helped me bridge my work from basic to translational research.” Truly driven by passion, Papageorgiou hopes to continue pursuing research in the future in hopes of elucidating the complex biological systems of hypertension.

Interview by Minji Kim

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 23


CLOSE UP

Unravelling CANCER`S

Mysteries

With the future in her sights, Dr. Fei-Fei Liu reflects on her journey so far By Avi Vandersluis

24 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

I

n over 20 years as a clinician-scientist, Dr. Fei-Fei Liu has made quite a mark on the field of cancer research. The author of a multitude of publications and the recipient of numerous prestigious grants and awards, her continued success is remarkable. Not only was she the Head of the Division of Applied Molecular Oncology at the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) from 2005-2010, and a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital, but she also serves as an ad hoc reviewer for many scientific journals. Recently, she took some time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer our questions and to give us an inside look into both her professional and personal life.


CLOSE UP

Q

Combining medicine with research is a lot more common nowadays than it was in the past. How did you go about becoming a clinician-scientist?

A

After two years of undergrad at U of T, I went on to complete medical school in 1980. I then sub-specialized in both internal medicine and radiation oncology – one could do that in those days – which I finished in 1983 and 1986, respectively. I spent 1987 doing a one year fellowship in hyperthermia at Stanford – that was where I became hooked on lab research – before returning to Toronto in 1988 and starting my faculty position within the OCI at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Q

As a new faculty member, was it difficult to balance your clinical work with your research?

A

In those days, there was no “clinicianscientist” model, so during the weekdays, I spent 100% of my time seeing patients. I did my research during evenings and weekends. As the years went by, and as I continued to publish and obtain peer-reviewed funding, my clinical load gradually reduced to its current proportion of 20%.

Q

Can you tell us a little bit about your research focuses?

A

My research career has had three lives. Our first area of interest was hyperthermia. It had great biology, but it was technically limited, so its broad application to human patients was not feasible. We then moved on to viral gene therapy, but unfortunately, it suffered from the same challenges as hyperthermia. We now focus on several different domains. The first is micro-RNA profiling for human tumours, due to the broad availability of clinically-annotated formalin-fixed cancer tissues from which such global profilings are possible. From completing such experiments, we are now starting to unravel biological insights into clinically-relevant human cancer pathways, which will potentially lead to the discovery of novel markers that can predict outcome. In addition, we are also evaluating novel molecular therapeutics.

Q

What would you consider your most significant research accomplishment?

A

I consider two of our findings to be quite impactful. The first is the observation of human papilloma virus (HPV) in patients with tonsillar or oropharyngeal carcinomas (OPCs). Last year, we published a paper documenting that approximately 60% of patients diagnosed with OPC in a recent era (20032006) harboured the HPV genome in their tumours. Most peculiarly, these patients have a much superior outcome than OPC patients who do not have HPV-associated malignancies: a three-year overall survival of 85% vs. 65%. This significant difference is universally observed. The mechanisms underlying this superior outcome have not yet been elucidated, and are being actively pursued by our lab. We are also quite excited about the discovery of a novel radio-sensitizing target, which is an enzyme in the heme-biosynthesis pathway. This discovery was made by Emma Ito, one of my PhD grad students, through the conduct of a siRNA robotics screen. We are now in the throes of trying to develop a small molecule inhibitor targeting this enzyme.

Q

What do you think is the future of research in your field?

A

I think cancer care will be transformed. I believe that in the future, patients will come into our clinics carrying a USB key containing not only their clinical medical records, but also their germline DNA and tumour– omic (i.e. genomic, proteomic, etc.) information. Part of the clinical evaluation of our future cancer patients will be plugging their –omic information into an algorithm, which will then define the optimal treatment plan based on the intrinsic sensitivities of their tumours to different treatment modalities, and balanced by the tolerance of their normal tissues to the same regimens. During treatment, biomarker tests and imaging modalities will be conducted to allow for real-time biological and technological adaptations, depending on the tumour’s response. To achieve this vision for the future of “personalized cancer medicine,” a lot of work remains to be done. We need to understand the

important tumour molecular profiles and the various –omic information, which together can indeed predict outcome. At the same time, the same information needs to be derived from the germline or host DNA data.

Q

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

A

Trying to unravel all of this information. When we succeed and get some hints that we might have uncovered an important pathway, it’s like Christmas! I also take great pleasure in seeing a graduate student mature over his or her four to five years in our lab from a shy young woman or man to a confident young adult and scientist. Watching them grow up, and catching up with them in the years following, is extremely rewarding.

Q

Tell us something you would like people to know about you that they do not already know.

A

I have a few hobbies. I love reading great mystery novels and I love music. I play the piano and I sing, both poorly and completely off-key. I love traveling with my family. My husband Richard and our two boys Derek and Trevor recently took a family trip to Africa. We witnessed how youths in Kliptown, South Africa – with no running water or electricity – were self-motivated in developing a tutoring centre, and succeeded in sending young students from their town to university. It was my first time ever going. It was totally inspiring!

Q

What advice would you give to someone starting off in your field? Have passion and conviction that your work is important. There is a fine line between perseverance and obstinacy. Work hard. Recognize opportunities and grab them. Find good mentors who will guide you in your career. And lastly, as the song goes, “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

A

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 25


The genetics of childhood aggression

C

hildhood-onset, aggressive antisocial behaviour reflects significant psychological and behavioural problems. Aggressive behaviour is associated with damaging effects on the individual, his or her family, and society as a whole. Persistent, pervasive aggression is associated with peer rejection, academic failure, risk-taking behaviour, delinquency and substance abuse. In adulthood, these individuals frequently have poor mental health and impaired psychosocial functioning. Furthermore, their parenting styles tend to be harsh, aggressive, and neglectful, which plays a role in the transmission of aggression across generations. Not surprisingly, aggressive behaviour is one of the most common reasons children and adolescents are referred to mental health clinics.

26 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

by Dr. Joseph Beitchman

The etiology of childhood aggressive antisocial behaviour is poorly understood, but environmental factors—such as childhood maltreatment—are a substantial risk factor. Nevertheless, not all children who experience maltreatment become delinquent or adult criminals. The reason for this variability is largely unknown, but it is probable that the vulnerability to aggressive antisocial behaviour is at least partly dependent upon genetic susceptibility. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that aggressive antisocial behaviour is heritable and that certain genes may predispose individuals to develop aggressive antisocial behaviour or, contrariwise, to protect against its development.

and the enzyme monoamine oxidase A, as important factors in the development and manifestation of aggressive behaviour. Extending these observations to the underlying genotype, our group has identified genes including the serotonin transporter and receptor, dopamine DRD2, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and monoamine oxidase A as being important vulnerability factors in childhood aggression. It is important to note that genes may only predispose a child to the development of aggression. However, whether aggressive antisocial behaviour actually develops and reaches clinical significance is dependent on the interaction between genes and environment.

Existing research has identified certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine

Because aggressive antisocial behaviour is heterogeneous, there have been many at-

Š Nicholas Woolridge 2011

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT


RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT tempts to identify more homogeneous subgroups of aggressive behaviour. Recent evidence has pointed to a callous-unemotional behavioural subtype, which is thought to be a forerunner to psychopathic behaviour. Individuals who are callous and unemotional are likely to have interpersonal difficulties with trust, attachment, and recognizing and interpreting emotional cues. There is also evidence that callous-unemotional traits are heritable and, consequently, our lab has been exploring possible genetic factors. There is an emerging literature on the role of oxytocin (OXT) and vasopressin (AVP) in human social behaviour, stimulated by the groundbreaking study by Winslow et al. (1993), which identified OXT and AVP to be central mediators in monogamy and selective aggression in Prairie voles. The OXTAVP system has been studied for its effects on complex social behaviours and aggression-related disorders. Animal studies have shown that traits such as attachment and pair-bonding are associated with OXT, while AVP is associated with maternal and territorial aggression.

Photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/profile/jfg

The structures of OXT and AVP are very similar. Both are located on chromosome 20, but are oriented in opposite transcriptional directions in mammals. The receptors are widely distributed throughout the brain, perhaps accounting for their manifold and diverse effects. In humans, OXT has been associated with empathy-mediated generosity. It is thought to function as an anxiolytic hormone as it decreases the release of stress hormones, aided in part by its action at the OXT receptor in the amygdala. OXT administration has been shown to reduce amygdalar activity in response to fear-inducing visual stimuli and anxiety levels appear to be linked to aggression in several animal models. In humans, OXT may act to decrease anxiety by increasing recognition and feelings of affiliation. Also, lower OXT levels in cerebrospinal fluid have been associated with increased aggression. AVP, on the other hand, has been shown to enhance cognition for sexual stimuli in human males and increased AVP levels in cerebrospinal fluid have been associated with increased aggression. Given these putative important social effects

Preliminary research in our lab has already identified OXT markers to be significantly correlated with callous-unemotional characteristics in aggressive children. In conclusion, we believe that polymorphisms of genes related to the OXT-AVP system will give more insight into possible causes of persistent, pervasive aggression in children. Such knowledge will give rise to a better understanding of the genetic basis of childhood aggression and may ultimately lead to new medications and forms of treatment.

While it is not well known what causes childhood aggressive antisocial behaviour, environmental factors such as childhood maltreatment may play a role.

of the OXT-AVP system, perturbations in this neuro-humoral system may be expected to interfere with social behaviour. Investigators have speculated that the OXT-AVP system may contribute to such disorders as Autism and Schizophrenia, and more recently callous-unemotional traits. Callousunemotional traits reflect deficits in social behaviour, such that empathy or the ability to recognize emotional cues in the faces of others may be compromised. Investigations of the genes and receptors of the OXT-AVP system may offer clues to understanding the etiology and biological underpinnings of callous-unemotional aggressive behaviour. Aforementioned evidence suggests the OXTAVP system may be a principal mediator in human behaviour, and may contribute to the development and manifestation of callousunemotional aggressive behaviour. It is likely that multiple genetic variants of modest effect may be associated with aggressive antisocial behaviour. That is, genes from multiple systems, such as the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine and the neuro-humoral OXT-AVP system, among others, all contribute in varying ways to aggressive antisocial behaviour. For this reason, research in our lab on the genetics of childhood aggression has recently expanded its focus to the neurohumoral OXT-AVP system. Specifically, we will be studying genetic markers associated with the OXT-AVP system that could help explain aggressive antisocial behaviour in children and adolescents.

Reference: Winslow, J. T., Hastings, N., Carter, C. S., Harbaugh, C. R., & Insel, T. R. (1993). A role for central vasopressin in pair bonding in monogamous prairie voles. Nature, 365(6446), 545-548. Relevant publications by Dr. Beitchman: Beitchman, J. H., Mik, H. M., Ehtesham, S., Douglas, L., & Kennedy, J. L. (2004). MAOA and persistent, pervasive childhood aggression. Molecular Psychiatry, 9(6), 546-547. Beitchman, J., Baldassarra, L., Mik, H., De Luca, V., King, N., Bender, D., Ehtesham, S., & Kennedy, J. (2006). Serotonin transporter polymorphisms and persistent, pervasive childhood aggression. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(6), 1103-1105. Beitchman, J., Davidge, K., Kennedy, J., Atkinson, L., Lee, V., Shapiro, S., & Douglas, L. (2003). The serotonin transporter gene in aggressive children with and without ADHD and nonaggressive matched controls. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1008, 248-251. Davidge, K., Atkinson, L., Douglas, L., Lee, V., Shapiro, S., Kennedy, J. & Beitchman, J. (2004). Association of the serotonin transporter and 5HT1Dbeta receptor genes with extreme, persistent and pervasive aggressive behaviour in children. Psychiatric Genetics, 14(3), 143-146. Guerin, A., Beitchman, J., Strauss, J., & Kennedy, J. (2007). Association study of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene and childhood aggression. Psychiatric Genetics, 17(1), 7-8. Mik, H., Ehtesham, S., Baldassarra, L., De Luca, V., Davidge, K., Bender, D., Tharmalingam, S., Kennedy, J. & Beitchman, J. (2007). Serotonin system genes and childhood-onset aggression. Psychiatric Genetics, 17(1), 11-11.

Dr. Joseph Beitchman is the Clinical Director of the Child, Youth and Family Program in the Clinical Research Department of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He is a professor and the Head of the Division of Child Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. For more information, visit: http://www.camh.net/research/scientific_ Staff_profiles/bio_detail.php?cuserID=40

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 27


BEHIND THE SCENES

Lending a

Helping Hand

Hazel Pollard has been guiding students and faculty for over a decade By Samantha Bremner 28 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY


BEHIND THE SCENES

H

azel Pollard is probably the first person you met when applying to the Institute of Medical Science, and she will likely be the last person you have contact with before completing your degree. She is the IMS’ Admissions Officer, and has been since 1998, when she transferred from the Biochemistry Department after nine years there. Initially hired as the Graduate Officer, she was responsible for various aspects of student services, however, as the department grew, the dynamics of her position changed. She plays a vital role for every applicant; not only during the very busy admissions and registration periods, but throughout their programs as well. Her commitment to her position and her vast knowledge of the policies and procedures of both the IMS and the SGS continues to improve the graduate experience of each and every student in the IMS. Pollard was born in Georgetown, Guyana as one of twelve siblings. In 1982, she moved to Toronto where she completed high school and went on to complete an undergraduate degree with a double major in history and anthropology as well as a minor in Caribbean studies, all while taking care of her family. The time-management skills and work ethic she developed during her undergraduate studies have proven crucial in her job as Admissions Officer. It is not uncommon for Pollard to work well into the evening, especially during the admissions and registration cycles. But despite the long hours – she is sometimes in the office for upwards of 12 hours a day – Pollard loves working for the IMS. Interacting with new people each day and promoting the department to potential students are among her favourite aspects of the job.

office in tears. “It’s all just part of the job,” she says. Drawing on her previous experience as Graduate Officer, Pollard possesses a thorough knowledge base that students and faculty in the department rely on. She ensures that applicants applying to the IMS have the necessary background for graduate studies and has often had to reassure prospective students that an interview is just another part of the admissions process. She regularly responds to student inquires about the status of their applications. On one occasion, Pollard recalls, she used humour to break the news. “I have good news and bad news, which one do you want first?” she inquired. “What’s the bad news?” the student asked tentatively. With a big smile, Pollard replied that there was none. Although this student has now completed her PhD, she always remembered how panicked she felt during that telephone conversation. Outside of her role in the IMS, Pollard dedicates much of her spare time to charity work. An active member of her church community, she works with youths on weekends and is the Principal of the church’s tutorial program for children in Grades 1 to 12. Through this program, Pollard provides youths with opportunities they would not receive otherwise. Currently, she is trying to acquire a vehicle for her church so that it will be easier to

transport participants to programs. It is clear that for Pollard, being caring and generous to those in need is of utmost importance. When asked what she would do if she won a million dollars, Pollard replies without hesitation. “I would give half to charity.” The other half would be to help her family.

Insider Information Cats or Dogs? Salty or Sweet? “Give me the candies!” Coffee or Tea? Starbucks or Tim Hortons? Winter or Summer? SUV or Sports Car? Rock-n-Roll or Jazz? “Love em’ both” Singing or Dancing? “How can I pick just one?” Apples or Oranges? MAC or PC? “PC all the way!” Chocolate or Vanilla? Morning or Night? Peanut Butter or Jam? Pizza or Pasta? “Both. Are you kidding?” Scrambled or Sunny-side Up?

Most of all, however, Pollard loves the opportunity she has to build relationships with students and show how much she cares. Additionally, she takes great pride in helping the department’s international students find their footing in graduate school. Most of all, however, Pollard loves the opportunity she has to build relationships with students and show how much she cares. She is always ready to stop everything for students in difficult situations, giving hugs when needed or handing tissues to those who approach her IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 29


FUTURE DIRECTIONS

Science’s

BusinessMan David Kideckel has made a seamless transition from his PhD to the working world By Nina Bahl

D

r. david kideckel describes his foray into the realm of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology as serendipitous, but it’s impossible to deny the determination, initiative, and drive he put forth to achieve his career success. Currently working as a product manager for a psychiatric drug at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Kideckel transitioned from the research world to a field of merged science and business. An arduous road at times, he concedes, but one with an exhilarating end result. A Winnipeg-native, Kideckel completed two undergraduate bachelor degrees at the University of Winnipeg before enrolling at Mc-

30 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

Master University to complete an MSc in neuro-imaging research. Fully intent on becoming a professor of neuroscience, he embarked upon his PhD at the Institute of Medical Science in 2006; it was soon after, however, that he realized his career aspirations lay elsewhere. “I was enjoying the work, but I realized very early on that remaining [in academia] was not for me. I became aware of a whole world out there where people with scientific training are highly valued beyond medicine and research,” comments Kideckel, who quickly immersed himself in several extracurricular activities to explore alternative options. Kideckel notes the importance of finding opportunities that helped him hone his leadership skills. He served on the Institute of Medical Science Students’ Association (IMSSA) council for three years and was elected President in his final year. He also co-founded and served as Vice President of U of T’s Graduate Management Consulting Association (GMCA), which provides students with the opportunity to engage in management consulting-related activities from networking events to practical experience. “Both positions were instrumental in developing a transferable skill set, and also, in showcasing those skills and leadership abilities. At the end of the day, potential employ-


FUTURE DIRECTIONS ers in the [biotechnology and pharmaceutical] industries are looking for talents that distinguish a highly competitive applicant pool.” Kideckel’s leadership initiatives didn’t stop there. He worked with the IMS directorate to integrate the CIBC Presents Entrepreneurship 101 course into its existing curriculum, which has allowed students interested in a business- and science-oriented field to understand entrepreneurial opportunities and what they might entail. The course is valuable not only for its material, but also for the chance to listen to world-renowned speakers and leaders. “Much of this industry is about networking, and it certainly allowed me to meet a lot of really interesting people. In general, it opens you up to another world altogether that you may not know about unless you hear other people and learn from their experiences,” explains Kideckel. The MaRS-run course is now offered as a module for official credit for IMS students. To truly understand the nature of biotechnology and pharmaceutical jobs, Kideckel also completed internships with two companies during his graduate degree – one with a MaRS-based biotech company, Interface Biologics, and the other with SHI Link, a pharmaceutical licensing-business development firm. He gained an understanding of the field’s business development and marketing processes, and is adamant that his internships were both crucial in his ability to secure a rewarding career. He encourages students interested in similar career paths to seek out practical opportunities as well, not only to provide them with a competitive advantage, but also to gauge the variety of jobs available in the industry. “I didn’t even know what business development was until I did these internships,” recalls Kideckel. “It was a whole world that I fell in love with, became fascinated with, and ultimately led me to where I am now.” Kideckel points to a specific event that helped teach him the intricacies of pharmaceutics and the skills that “set leaders apart from the rest.” While enrolled in his PhD, he was one of only three Canadians selected worldwide to participate in the Novartis International Biotechnology Leadership Camp, held at the Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research global headquarters in Cambridge, MA, USA. During this event, science, medical and business students learned from the finest minds in the US about pharmaceutics, biotechnology, venture capitalism, regulatory affairs, and business development. A particular speech given by Dr. Eric Lander, the Founding Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and President Obama’s appointed co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, resonates strongly with him. In the talk, Dr. Lander showcased the future of genetics and its impact on humanity. “This was one of the most inspiring talks I have ever heard,” says Kideckel, reminiscing. The culmination of the camp was the business plan competition, in which students were put into groups, challenged to come up with an innovative idea and required to pitch it to a panel of venture capitalists, scientists and Novartis executives. Kideckel was named the CEO of his team, MyCells Therapeutics, which included students from China, South Africa, Mexico, Thailand, the US, and Canada. Their presentation, aimed at obtaining venture capitalist financing for a stem cell therapeutic platform, claimed first prize and generated global media attention. As a result of this achievement, Kideckel was asked to write a feature blog for MaRS. The leadership camp proved to be a crucial experience for him, as he is now applying

everything he learned there in his capacity at Johnson & Johnson. Despite all the success he has achieved, Kideckel knows that on more than one occasion, his journey has been a struggle. During his time as an IMS student, he juggled heavy involvement in extracurricular activities with the completion of his PhD project, all while taking care of a newborn baby with his wife, who was finishing her internal medicine, allergy and clinical immunology residency at the time. “Life was hectic. It was crazy at times,” laughs Kideckel. He repeatedly emphasizes the need for time management and a reliable support system. “My supervisor, Dr. Paul Sandor, was great in so many ways. He gave me the freedom to do what I needed to do, as long as I got the job done.” Kideckel also extends his gratitude to the IMS executives, particularly Dr. Ori Rotstein, who gave him a forum to voice his opinions and to try to implement tangible changes. “He gives all IMS students the opportunity to sit on executive committees and let their voices be heard. It really gave me the confidence to say what I need to say to people now. Managing relationships is a huge part of what I do.”

“It was a whole world that I fell in love with, became fascinated with, and ultimately led me to where I am now.” In Kideckel’s eyes, having a successful career does not mean he has finished learning. Recently, he was selected as one of only a handful of students nationally to receive the federally-funded CIHR Science to Business Award. The objective of this award is to allow recently minted PhD students with great business potential and acumen to embark on MBA studies in a health-related sector, with the goal of developing and aiding the future leaders of the Canadian innovation economy. Kideckel will commence part-time MBA studies at the Rotman School of Management in 2011, with a focus in pharmaceutical and biotechnology marketing, corporate finance and venture capitalism, while simultaneously working in his present position at Johnson & Johnson. Kideckel is excited by the prospect of other science students seeking careers in the business sector, as he understands the value of a candidate who can combine a business and science skill set. He encourages interested students to network as much as possible and to get involved with extracurricular activities early on in their graduate training. “Go to the IMSSA and see what they have to offer. Even better, see what you can offer the IMSSA in order to make the student experience at U of T even better. Always try to improve things, and don’t settle for the status quo. Go to the Life Science Career Development Series and IMSSA’s Career Speakers Series. Most importantly, network, network, network.” Above all, Kideckel says his most important piece of advice for students interested in biotechnology and pharmaceutical work is perseverance. “You will encounter setbacks along the way; it’s inevitable, and it certainly happened to me. Be resourceful, because if one thing doesn’t work out, something else will. Don’t get discouraged and don’t let anybody tell you no. If I followed a lot of people’s advice, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am now and I wouldn’t be happy.”

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 31


ASK THE EXPERTS

? Experts

Ask the

Dear Experts, I am an associate faculty member at the IMS, and I would like to get more involved in the department. How can I do this? Eager Prof Dear E.P., There are many great, easy ways to increase your involvement in the IMS. As a faculty member, you have the opportunity to sit on Program Advisory Committees (PAC) for graduate students, or even to chair thesis defenses. If you are looking for something different, we are always looking for judges to evaluate posters on IMS Scientific Day. Moreover, the department is always open to new modules or courses, so ideas would be welcome. For more information on these and any other opportunities, feel free to contact the Associate Director or the Graduate Coordinators.

Dear Experts, I’m a first year PhD student, and my second PAC meeting is quickly approaching. At my first meeting, I outlined my research proposal, but I am unclear what to include for my second meeting. What are the specific requirements for each PAC meeting? Dazed and Confused Dear D&C, There are no set rules regarding PAC meetings. Normally, you present the progress of your study and update the PAC on your completed coursework. As a guide, review your committee’s suggestions from your previous PAC meeting, and address these points in your presentation. If you are still uncertain, you should individually ask your supervisor and/or your PAC members about their expectations for your meeting.

Dear Experts, I am having trouble finding examiners for my thesis defense who are experts in my field of research and who have not collaborated with my supervisor in the past five years. What should I do? Desperate for Examiners Dear D.E., Firstly, it is important to understand what is meant by “expert.” Examiners do not need to be experts in the content area of your research. They can be experts in your research method or in an allied field even if it is somewhat peripheral to your specific research. Broad questions are often more challenging and more fun. Secondly, the IMS website has specific documents relating to the guidelines for defenses and transfers. These can be found at http://www.ims.utoronto. ca/current/Exams_and_Deadlines.htm. As always, your supervisor and PAC members can be asked for help, as can the Graduate Co-ordinators.

Dear Experts, I am in the process of finishing my Master’s degree, and I’m not sure what to do after graduate school. What are my career options? Does the IMS provide assistance to students looking for employment opportunities after graduation? Worried About Work Dear W.A.W., Many employment opportunities are available for students after graduation. IMSSA organizes career seminars, as does the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). Keep an eye out for emails regarding these workshops. The Koffler Career Centre also offers plenty of information about career possibilities for MSc and PhD graduates. Check out http:// www.careers.utoronto.ca/MAPhD/MAPhD. aspx?tr= for more details. Your supervisor, PAC members, and the Graduate Co-ordinators are great resources as well. Good luck!

32 | IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY

Dear Experts, Recently, my supervisor asked me to act in a way that I felt was unethical. I have tried to confront him, but I fear it will jeopardize my relationship with him. What should I do? Troubled Student Dear T.S., We understand the difficult situation you are in. Student-supervisor relationships can sometimes be quite tricky. As each relationship is unique, we encourage you to speak to the Graduate Coordinators immediately for advice on how to best address your specific case. The IMS Students’ Association (IMSSA) also offers workshops on various student-supervisor issues, so we recommend attending those as well.

EXPERT TIP

Never be afraid to ask the Graduate Co-ordinators for help.


DIVERSIONS

EMBARASSING STORIES

Pipette Problems During my first year, while learning how to use the pipettes in my lab, I encountered some amusing and embarrassing problems with the buttons on the pipette. On one occasion, I spent 10 minutes wondering why the tip wouldn’t eject, until it was painfully pointed out to me that I was pressing the plunger button! Another time, while trying to fill the tip with water from the reverse osmosis bottle, I accidentally ejected the tip right into it instead. The bottle had to be discarded and I was the laughing stock of the lab for two weeks! – Anonymous

Minutien Minutia Late one Friday night, after finally completing an experiment in the animal facility, I returned to the lab to finish up. It was around 9 pm already, and I couldn’t wait to get home for the night. Unfortunately, my excitement was a little too great – so much so that I knocked an entire box of 0.1-mm Minutien pins on the floor. Although the box was secured with tape, the impact was enough to open up the box and to spread 300 pins everywhere! Minutien pins are a big hazard – if one gets inside your skin, it could get into your circulation and be fatal. After failed attempts at using a magnet, my only option was to use my microsurgery tools and pick them up one by one. So much for my Friday night plans with my friends…the process took several hours! – Anonymous

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham http://www.phdcomics.com

IMS MAGAZINE WINTER 2011 DIVERSITY | 33


You are invited to attend the public

Zebrafish

Functional Genomics Lectures February 7, 2011 1:00 - 4:45 pm

Location The main floor auditorium at the newly built Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital, 209 Victoria Street (near Yonge/Queen) Speakers Dr. Stephen Ekker, Mayo Clinic Protein Trap Gene-Breaking Transposons for Zebrafish Mutagenesis Dr. Serguei Parinov, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, National University of Singapore Ac/Ds-Mediated Transgenesis and Inducible Gene Expression in Zebrafish Dr. Sridhar Sivasubbu, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, India Genome and Transcriptome Landscape of a Wild-Type Strain of Zebrafish Sponsored by Ontario Genomics Institute (www.ontariogenomics.ca) Hosted by Dr. Xiao-Yan Wen Director, The Zebrafish Centre for Advanced Drug Discovery Scientist, Keenan Research Centre, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute St. Michael’s Hospital

Profile for IMS Magazine

IMS Magazine Winter 2011  

A magazine highlighting the research, students and faculty at the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto.

IMS Magazine Winter 2011  

A magazine highlighting the research, students and faculty at the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto.

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