Role: HQP Scholar
Primary Faculty Advisor: Ian Tetlow
Project: Investigating Protein Complexes Associated with Starch Synthesis in Cereals: A Proteomic Approach Using Blue-Native PAGE
Department: Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, CBS
What inspired you to pursue your current degree?
Since starting my post-secondary journey, I have wanted to pursue a master’s degree. I love plants and science and combining the two in a graduate degree gave me the opportunity to do more of what I love and do research that could fuel future innovations.
What about your research area excites you?
Discovering things no one knows about yet and working with plants! I think they are so very cool and the evolution of our crop plants and us are intrinsically linked. Learning how plants can take a few simple things – water, sun and some gases from the air and turning them into the food we use to feed everyone on the planet is really exciting to me – and I get to study part of this process!
What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there and also the number of things we don’t know – even in a specific topic like starch synthesis. Looking at your results and deciding which of those unknowns you want to pursue next – knowing that you can’t do it all is a challenge. To overcome this challenge, you need to think critically about which pieces of information are important to your thesis and which are avenues for future research.
How would you describe your research and the implications of your project?
I am studying the starch synthesis enzymes in maize leaves. There are two types of starch, one of them is the kind we eat. The other type is transitory starch. This type of starch is very important for plant health. It is found in the leaves and is made during the day when the plant can photosynthesize. At night, transitory starch is degraded into sugars to feed growing plants. My studies focus on how transitory starch synthesis is regulated. Understanding this could help us breed plants that are more healthy and can grow and produce higher crop yields, helping us to feed a growing population.
What do you see as your next steps after completing your degree?
After completing my degree, I hope to look for some opportunities which will help me gain experience in some other fields I am interested in, such as plant ecology and agricultural science. I hope to be a lifelong learner and to use my experience to help organizations and governments to design research and policy which will help create sustainable food systems.
What role has the HQP scholarship played in your academic journey so far?
The HQP scholarship has given me the opportunity to participate in an industry-partnered project and gain experience solving problems that have the potential to have a direct impact on policy. I learned how to conduct research with human participants, was provided with the opportunity to work with other graduate students from different disciplines. I have been able to make connections with new faculty as well as with potential future employers.
What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab?
Outside the lab, I like gardening, caring for my hermit crabs and going for hikes to look for native carnivorous plants.
What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic?
My whole grad school experience has been during the pandemic, and I think one of the important things I haven’t completely mastered yet, but am learning, is to separate my work time from the time I can rest and relax.