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T H E O F F I C I A L   N E W S L E T T E R   O F   T H E   P R I O N E T   S T U D E N T   &   Y O U N G   P R O F E S S I O N A L   A S S O C I A T I O N

Thank You



ll good things must come to an end. Good things like Beanie Babies; Disco; the macarena; and those rigid/spring slap on bracelets everyone had except me during the summer of ‘91. No wait, all those things are terrible and deserve their fiery deaths. What I meant to say was McDonald’s Pizza; the TV series/ space western Firefly; Pogs and Pepsi Crystal. These are just a few of the things that I have, over the course of my lifetime developed a fondness for and subsequently miss due to their departures. Shooting stars can only burn so bright until they have to come down to earth, but when they do shine, do they ever. A spectacle culminating in a moment of awes, however brief it may be, is something that you will carry with you for a lifetime. We hope that what you’ve learned with your time with us has been of some use to you. We hope you will continue to network with your peers, develop your skills, and establish a career to be proud of. This may be the last issue of the Prioneer, but it doesn’t have to be the end of SYPA. SYPA began as a concept. A concept to bring together like-minded young professionals and academics and give them an avenue to share ideas and build lasting relationships, be it work or friendship. I think we’ve succeeded in that aspect. The network has been created, and the idea has been planted and thus cannot be dismantled. Many of us will continue to work in our fields of study and industry, and as such many of us will still be available for consultation and advice whenever it may be. Thanks for the good times folks, and be sure to keep in touch.

Page 2 SUCCESS: Career  Workshop  and  Fair Page  3

OUR STORY What  SYPA  meant  to  us

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SMALL WORLD/  FULL  CIRCLE Page  7 A  “QuIC”  trip  to  Montana

Nishandan Yogasingam Editor Prioneer  

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J A brief  history T

he history of the Student and Young Professional Association is a storied one. Full of action, suspense, and intrigue. How does one even begin to tell such a tale of inception. Origin stories seem to be all the rage these days, so as such would seem like an appropriate starting point. PrioNet’s Student and Young Professional Association (SYPA) was established in June of 2006, in response to the need of students, post-docs, and young professionals to collaborate and network amongst their peers. Ultimately it was the intent of SYPA to provide its members with opportunities to develop their skills as future researchers of the network. An executive council of volunteer members was established to represent the membership body, tasked with looking after activities and opportunities made available to members. The council was divided into three sub-

committees, Communications and Governance, responsible for overseeing membership activity; Events, responsible for organizing and executing member events, such as SYPA Day and Career workshops; and Training and Professional

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Development Committee, tasked with reviewing and approving training applications. The SYPA executive council was headed by a Chair and Vice-chair, elected into position by the general SYPA membership. SYPA is proud to say that many of its alumni have gone on to establish successful careers in their choice fields of study. Some even attribute their careers to connections made through networking made possible by events hosted by SYPA and PrioNet. On behalf of current and past SYPA council members, we would like to extend our gratitude for your participation and enthusiasm throughout the years. We wish you the best in your endeavours.

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Success Career Workshop  and  Fair


n the 4th of November in 2011, PrioNet and SYPA held their very first career workshop and fair on the campus grounds of the University of Alberta. Despite the blizzard-like conditions, the event was a resounding success due to the tireless efforts of the PrioNet admin staff (Thanks Alison and gang!), the SYPA council crew, our distinguished guests and speakers, and those of you who participated. On March 2nd of 2012, PrioNet and SYPA held their second career workshop and fair in the meeting room of the Delta Hotel overseeing the downtown core of Ottawa, Ontario. Unfortunately, a thick blanket of fog reduced most visibility, but it was warmer and there was no snow. Victory. The day began, as most do, with a delicious breakfast. SYPA Chair Deena Gendoo welcomed our guests and speakers, and PrioNet executive director Michelle Wong gave introductory remarks. We began our presenters segment of the day with an interactive panel of Government representatives, including Stephan Morgan Jones from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Noel Murray from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Bob Hills of Health Canada; and Mark Raizenne from the Public Health Agency of Canada. David Bailey of Genome Alberta took to the podium to deliver a presentation on behalf of our non-profit speakers, emphasizing that the key to a successful non-profit organization lies in the strength of its project team. Celina Rayonne Ceasar Chavannes followed, describing with lightheartedness her journey from unemployment to

starting her award-winning company ReSolve Research Solutions. Angela Crawley of the Canadian Association of Post-doctoral Scholars, and Simon Sharpe concluded the speakers of the morning, and offered their insights into academia and life after the PhD. After lunch, we were introduced to a panel of representatives from industry which included, Louise Scrocchi from Amorfix Life Sciences; Christine Ambrose from Biogen Idec; and Philip Schwab from Abbot Lab. The general theme of discussion was keeping a positive attitude, developing good communication skills and getting involved as much as possible. Patent Law agent, David Nauman of BLG, and Elie Dolgin of Nature Medicine concluded our speakers portion of the day. David explained the role of patent agents in Intellectual Property development and offered insights into employment in the field, and Elie described his role as a science communicator and its importance in the field. The day concluded with an interactive career fair. This session provided attendees with the opportunity to approach a person of interest and make a valuable connection. A very warm thanks to all that participated and we hope you learned something of value that you can apply to your future ventures.

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Our  Story What SYPA meant for us

I attended my first PrPCANADA conference in 2009 where I first met with members of the SYPA council and was instantly captivated by this dynamic team, bustling with energy and overflowing with enthusiasm. As part of the SYPA events committee, I had the great privilege of constantly interacting with individuals that were passionate about science, and that were prepared to share their ideas in a highly interactive environment. I was fortunate to join and contribute to multiple SYPA day events, where I had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, learn about new cultures, and make new friends. From students and aspiring scientists to prominent professionals in the field, all were joined in the common goal of discussing science, exchanging ideas, and sharing

experiences. As SYPA Chair over the past year, all of these wonderful experiences had multiplied tenfold. Our fantastic SYPA team, along with the truly supportive and exceptional PrioNet administration, worked diligently to prepare two Career Workshop and Fairs for SYPA HQP. These fairs were great resources for many of us that are still in the early stages of our career paths, and were fertile ground for the exchange of ideas and career advice. Going hand in hand, the network had continued to grow and expand with the increased addition of multiple video conferences and ever-flowing SYPA communications in our SYPA periodicals. I hope that the previous year has met your expectations and provided you with a great share of these fruitful experiences. As the PrioNet network winds down to its conclusion, I would like to extend my overwhelming gratitude to the SYPA council, PrioNet administration, and PrioNet itself, for helping SYPA grow and flourish over the years, and for making this a truly exceptional experience.


I had the opportunity to attend my first PrPCANADA meeting about three years ago. This was preceded by a SYPA day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The schedule for the SYPA day consisted of numerous professional training activities along with a basic introduction to prions. Since I was new to the prion field, I gained valuable information from these sessions. The prions 101 lecture was of particular value as it covered a lot of basic knowledge regarding the pathological agent and the prion disease process. In addition, I had a chance to meet many remarkable HQPs throughout the day. As a final informal opportunity for networking, the SYPA council organized a karaoke night for all the SYPA attendees. Although I was a little reserved at first, by the end of the night I was up on stage, singing alongside everyone else. I have to say that I was very thankful that their voices were able to overpower my own off-pitched singing attempts. Overall, I cannot help but remember how much fun I had and how many great people I met that day. Every subsequent year I have tried to

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attend as many of the SYPA days as possible, and each time I have learned something new and exciting, meeting other HQPs along the way! Last year, I had the privilege of working with many distinguished members of the PrioNet Education Committee and the SYPA Council as a Training and Professional Development Committee Member. During my tenure, I was able to acquire a great deal of experience both scientifically and professionally. Sadly, PrioNet is nearing its end and I am sure we will all miss this incredible network, but I hope that all of you will look fondly on the times we shared and take the knowledge we gained into each of your respective studies.

Anna Majer, SYPA Exec

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My first exposure to SYPA was PrPCANADA 2009 in Edmonton, Alberta. I was in the first year of my Masters program and was lucky enough to be chosen for an HQP oral presentation for my research work. I absolutely loved the conference and all the great people I met. Everyone in the network was so friendly and people I’d just met were talking to me about my work. It was a really exciting experience with so many different research projects and lots of activities for students on SYPA Day. During SYPA Day, I specifically remember a presentation on networking that suggested discussing about food at a buffet as an icebreaker. Ironically, another student in my lab attempted this tactic and it failed, having the other person run away scared; I don’t think I’ll

ever forget that particular memory! I decided to join SYPA council to serve on the training and education committee in March 2010 and have had such great experiences with everyone on council and the wonderful people at PrioNet. Everyone has been so positive and upbeat and I’ve been able to partake in so many great events that I know will be beneficial to my future career. I recall a researcher commenting at the career workshop and fair in Ottawa, that the community at large tries to make networks in science all the time but PrioNet is the only one he’s witnessed that has succeeded. Since I’ve joined PrioNet as an HQP I’ve collaborated with three different labs from QuÊbec to Alberta. Although I am sad to see PrioNet go, I’m so thankful for all the wonderful memories it has left me with. Throughout the years, I’ve immensely enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship that being on SYPA executive council has brought and hope to keep in touch with its members into the future.

The writing of this issue marks the unfortunate end of PrioNet and SYPA council. One of my roles with SYPA over the three years that I was involved, was acting as PrioNet liaison to another Network of Centres of Excellence, AFMNet. They met a similar fate last year and at the announcement of this decision at their 2011 Professional Development School, it too was a sad occasion. However, like they did, we too can look back on our many accomplishments as a network. Personally, in large part to PrioNet support, I had the opportunity to attend three national and four international conferences. These conferences fostered my ability to present research DQGDOORZHGPHWRKHDUĂ€UVWKDQGIURPWKRVHLQWKHĂ€HOG whose research I had only read about.

Moreover, they provided me the opportunity to network ZLWKRWKHUUHVHDUFKHUVLQWKHĂ€HOGZKLFKZDVDOZD\VKHOSHG by an open bar. The highlight of these conferences, without any doubt, was Prion 2011 in Montreal, jointly hosted by PrioNet and the Alberta Prion Research Institute (APRI). I had an amazing time at the poster sessions, which were given scheduling priority and allowed everyone presenting ample WLPHWRURDPDQGGLVFXVVĂ€QGLQJVZLWKRWKHUSUHVHQWHUV7KH meeting was also featured a presentation by the one and only, Dr. Stanley Prusiner, though a combination of him being too busy and me being too nervous prevented us from ever meeting in person. I look forward to reading about the upcoming successes of all that I have met during my time with PrioNet. Our work will speak for itself for years to come. We have developed an amazing network of researchers that will continue to develop and test novel ideas and approaches to unravel the ever-lasting mysteries of prion diseases.

Amrit Singh-Boese, Vice-CHAIR, SYPA

Rory Shott, SYPA exec

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I have been part of the Student and Young Professional Association (SYPA) Executive Council since February 2008. During my first year in council, I formed part of the Education and Training Committee where I helped implement two new training opportunities: the Banff Science Communication Camp and the joining of AFMNet’s Professional Development course.  For the second and subsequent years, I joined the Events committee and I have helped organize three SYPA Days and two career and workshop fairs across the country; from Vancouver, to Edmonton, Ottawa, and Montreal.  To me, the single most important aspect about SYPA is that it

Although this is a sad time for all members of PrioNet, it’s also a great opportunity to reflect on all the ways PrioNet has enriched both our personal and professional lives. I first heard of PrioNet when I started my Master’s degree in Dr. Xavier Roucou’s lab at University of Sherbrooke in 2008. After attending the Baden meeting in Montreal, where I met Dr. Aru Balachandran as well as Dr. Hubert Laude, Xavier suggested that I apply for a reciprocal exchange travel grant from PrioNet to study in Dr. Laude’s lab for two months in France. At first, I thought the idea was crazy, but I managed to convince myself (and my wife!) that it was a great opportunity to learn not only about prions, but also to see how labs are run in another country overseas. Although my research didn’t work out the way I expected it to, I learned a whole lot about myself and I made some very good friends in the process. My Master’s project eventually took

For me, my SYPA journey began one fateful afternoon during PrPCANADA 2008 in Toronto. It was my first PrPCANADA conference. I had just joined a research team from the University of Guelph and was lucky enough to be sponsored as a guest to the conference. It was at that conference where I was invited by Angela Catford, former Chair of SYPA into attending a lunch hosted by then Chair and Vice-chair, Colin Anderson and Shannon Braithwaite. It was only when I arrived that I learned the full extent of Angela’s dastardly plan. It was a recruitment lunch. Not one to back out of a free lunch, I sat down and listened to what they had to say, expecting to walk out with a newly acquired time share

is governed by the people who ultimately benefit from it: the students, post doctoral fellows and young professionals of the Canadian and international prion community. The cherry on top is that we have at our disposal the great resources and unconditional support of the administrative staff at PrioNet who always make the events a success. I have felt the greatest benefit from the wonderful networking opportunities that SYPA has facilitated.  One can have theoretical and practical experience from academic courses or laboratory settings, but developing and delivering SYPA activities has helped me and other council members experience ultimate hands-on professional development.  In addition, we are helping other students gain access to opportunities that  I can personally attest are not available  in other  fields of science and research.

Irene Oviedo-Landaverde, SYPA exec

me to Dr. Balachandran’s lab in Ottawa on a number of occasions, where I performed experiments on TSE-infected material, which was not available to us in Sherbrooke. As a way of thanking PrioNet for the opportunities they had already given me, I joined the executive SYPA council as a member of the Education Committee. Four years later, I’m still on this same committee, where I review training applications from fellow HQPs. After finishing my Master’s degree, I was contacted by Dr. Balachandran with a job offer in his lab in Ottawa, where I’ve been working as a research and diagnostic technician for the CFIA for over a year now. I have PrioNet to thank for all of these unique experiences. In addition to funding my research project, they provided me with invaluable experience I never would acquired without my trip overseas, unique networking opportunities which have found me an excellent career, and, most importantly, the confidence to go out there and meet to people… you never know when an acquaintance might become an important job prospect!

Tony Staskevicius, SYPA exec

in Cold Lake, Alberta. I was wrong. I was immediately impressed with their mix of professionalism and casualness. I accepted, and have been happily married to SYPA since. Four years is a long time. It’s the longest I’ve ever committed to anything outside of my subscription to HBO. I have no regrets. Some of my best times were had at the PrP Conferences, and the friendships and colleagues I gained are priceless.


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hanks to PrioNet Canada, I was recently able to travel to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, my alma mater and hometown, for some hands-on training. My doctoral research is focused on the prionlike misfolding of SOD1 (superoxide dismutase 1), an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-linked protein. This research involves a collaboration between my supervisor, Dr Neil Cashman, and Dr Ted Allison at the University of Alberta. Dr Allison’s laboratory utilizes the highly flexible genetic model, Danio rerio, also known as zebrafish. We aim to utilize the motor neurons in zebrafish to investigate SOD1 ALS pathologies, since zebrafish have fully mature and functional motor neurons within two days following fertilization. Zebrafish genetic manipulation, husbandry and microscopic microinjection techniques are highly specialized, requiring dedicated space and equipment. For collaborations of this nature, it is far more efficient to transport personnel to the facility, rather than transport the facility to the personnel! Upon arriving at the Biological Sciences building on the U of A campus, I felt right at home. I spent a lot of my time as an undergraduate student in this building, and as I made my way up the stairs to Dr Allison’s lab, I realized that it was is in exactly the same lab space where I began my professional career as a lab rat! It was definitely a “small world” or “full circle” moment. Prior to my visit, I only had experience with zebrafish “parts”; the Allison lab had sent me tissues and embryos to analyze biochemically at the University of British

Columbia. In Dr Allison’s laboratory I was introduced to live zebrafish. I saw some amazing specimens under the microscope, including a live fish with a GFP-labeled heart that was beating right before my eyes! I could also see individual blood cells circulating around the fish’s body – very cool indeed. Up close, those zebrafish are actually quite pretty! During my visit I learned how to dissect an adult zebrafish and collect its eyes, brain, and spinal cord. Brain dissection is something I have done many times on mice and rats, so that part of the dissection went very well. In fact, I was able to successfully dissect out the brain with the eyes still attached! The spinal cord was a different story since I had never harvested a spinal cord before, from any species! But I did have a bit of an advantage with my first attempt– the zebrafish spinal cord expressed GFP! I’ll admit, it sort of felt like I was cheating... Overall, my visit to Dr Allison’s laboratory was productive and informative. I learned about the protocols and procedures involved with zebrafish research. And since it was Halloween, and I was in my hometown, I went out and celebrated with some old friends... Guess who dressed up as a lab rat!?

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A “QuIC”  trip  to  Montana By  John  Gray


here’s nothing “QuIC” about the road trip between Lethbridge, Alberta and Hamilton, Montana—and that was good. I’ve always lived in Alberta, driving between Calgary and my hometown (Cochrane). Now that I live in Lethbridge, prairie driving is a routine. I’m mostly driving between Lethbridge, Calgary, and Cochrane… (yawn). However, my drive into Montana was different. Maybe I inhaled too many fumes from the trucks at the Coutts border crossing, but I found a new appreciation for the prairies. In Southern Alberta, the prairies are developed. Transmission lines, farms, feedlots, range-roads…stuff scattered everywhere. However, just past Great Falls, MT, there’s this one large hill the highway climbs. The minivan I was rockin’ had to gear-down for the whole hill (sigh…). But then, at the top of the hill, an awe-inspiring view I have actually never seen before—hundreds of square miles of pristine, untouched open range. Other than the path the highway cut, there was nothing but land that looks today as it did back when Lewis and Clark found it, being an undisturbed sea of land—a visual commodity that is sure to disappear as our planet’s population grows. Clearly, one has a lot of time to think on a seven hour drive!

substrate for PrPSc to act upon, causing oligomerization of rPrPC, yielding rPrPSc. Okay, great, another cell-free conversion method to learn…why is this one any different than the others? We all know how particular those in the prion field are regarding their opinions, so this is for anyone to decide! But, in my opinion, the QuIC offers more control over variables than other methods. That’s not to say there aren’t any technical issues with the QuIC. It doesn’t work the same for all species of PrPC/Sc. I went to learn the RT-QuIC method, bring it to Canada, and work with the NIH-RML in a collaborative effort to get this method working on peripheral tissues in cervids, and eventually in bovines. That said, it works very well on hamster, as Dr. Caughey’s group has successfully developed this method to detect PrPSc in hamster blood plasma. They’ve done it! They have an antemortem TSE test that will benefit all the hamster farmers and pet shops out there! Okay, it’s unlikely the NIH-RML group is going to get a blood sample submission labelled “Mr. Fluffaluffagus” from Pets R’ Us…but all jokes aside, if a feasible, high-throughput antemortem TSE test is going to be developed for the livestock industry, it’s likely going to arise from the QuIC.


7KHRI¿FLDOQHZVOHWWHURIWKH PrioNet Student &  Young   Professional  Association Published  by  PrioNet   Canada and  PrioNet  SYPA Suite  200,  2386  East  Mall, University  of  British  Columbia, Vancouver,  BC,  Canada, V6T  1Z3 tel:  604-­222-­3600 fax:  604-­222-­3606


Contributors and  Editors: Deena  Gendoo Amrit  Singh-­Boese John  Gray Irene  Oviedo-­Landaverde Megan  O’Neill Alison  Palmer Anna  Majer Rory  Shott Tony  Staskevicius

So, why drive across the vast prairies? O’re yonder, in Hamilton, MT, resides the National Institutes of Health—Rocky Mountain Laboratory (NIH-RML). Prion research there is a big deal, and is headed by none other than Dr. Byron Caughey. If you’re an avid “folfer” (frisbee golf ) you know he’s a big deal in that realm as well! Byron and his group have developed a method: Quaking induced conversion (hence “QuIC”) of the prion protein. In short (and overly simplistic), recombinant prion protein (rPrPC) is expressed, purified, and used as a

There are many people to thank for the experience. First, thank you PrioNet for entrusting me with travel funds to make the most of my time in Hamilton, MT, and to bring back a valuable tool for Canadian prion research. But of course, there wouldn’t have been a need to apply for travel/training funding, if it wasn’t for the expertise and utmost generosity of Dr. Byron Caughey, Dr. Jason Wilham, Andy Hughson, Dr. Christina Orrú, and Dr. Sarah Vascellari. They are genuine professionals in what they do, and they were a pleasure to visit.

Nishandan Yogasingam

6SHFLDO7KDQNVWR Alison Palmer Sandra  Haney Les  Grad

Design and  Production: Nishandan  Yogasingam


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Prioneer - Issue 6  

PrioNet Canada's Student and Young Professional Association newsletter.

Prioneer - Issue 6  

PrioNet Canada's Student and Young Professional Association newsletter.