SFU Undergraduate Researcher: Sarosha Ali

Name: Sarosha Ali
Faculty: Science, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (3rd year)
Year of Study: 3rd
Supervisor: Dr. Bingyun Sun

What are your career interests?
I am interested in pursuing medicine either clinical or experimental to support the healthcare industry. I enjoy learning about cardiology, blood circulatory system, hematopoietic system, and the diseases associated with it. Hopefully, I will direct myself to pursue these branches of medicine.

How did you get involved in research?
I received an email about Work-Study program and thought it as a
great opportunity to gain some experience. I applied and got accepted. Soon after I found an interesting project named “Reproduction in Birds”, emailed my resume to the project supervisor, got selected for an interview (it was more like a chat tbh), and started working. I enjoyed assisting Ph.D. candidates in Dr. Tony William’s lab for 8 months. After acquiring experience, I approached Dr. Bingyun Sun to work on mammalian stem cell culture. I was assigned an independent research project and it was a turning point for myself. I gathered a lot of experience doing research in Sun’s lab which helped me acquire a co-op position at STEMCELL Technologies.
Fun Fact: There is an Animal Care Research Facility at SFU (isolated into the
woods). Explore!

What will you be working on this summer?
I will be working as a part of the Contract Assay Services (Pre-clinical trials)
department at STEMCELL Technologies. This means providing toxicity testing and immune services to meet client contractual requirements. As a co-op student, I will learn to perform cell-forming unit (CFU) assays on hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (mainly erythroid, myeloid, and megakaryocyte) and its utility for toxicity screening. As a part of a contract research organization, I will be supporting the department to work with industrial and academic researchers to help answer their drug development and cell biology questions.

What have you been working on in your research so far? (What is your research about?)
I conducted research on the project called “Embryonic stem cell culture,
migration, and proteomics” for 2 years. In which protagonist were the Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells, they are used in biological and medical research and commercially in the production of therapeutic proteins. I studied the effects of exogenous N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) to CHO cells on their rate of wound closure using the scratch migration assay and on their proliferation. GlcNAc which was the antagonist in the project was found to slow down cell migration and proliferation, accompanied by cell hypertrophy of the CHO cells. It is important to study the effects of different N-glycans and respective N-glycosylation as they play significant roles in stem-cell development. It is now known that its dysregulation leads to several diseases such as diabetes mellitus, oncogenic transformation of animal cells, and metastasis of cancer cells.
Previously, I assisted Ph.D. candidates for 8 months in Dr. Tony William’s Lab for the project called “Reproduction in Birds”. I helped with two sub-projects: 1) Eco-toxicology: Long-term effects of early (in ovo or perinatal) exposure to mercury in birds. 2) Physiological effects of exercise and training for increased foraging effort. This involved performing bird husbandry, setting up breeding boxes, and performing venipuncture on birds to collect blood for hematology assays to determine hemoglobin and hematocrit (red blood cells percentage volume) levels.

What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
It typically involved a combination of cell passaging and cell counting, besides cell microscopy on a daily basis. Once or twice a week it required me to perform protein analysis such as Bradford protein assay and running SDS-PAGE electrophoresis to determine the protein concentrations of microsomal, nuclear, and cytosolic proteins of the cells. Some days are desk work including result analysis and reading articles. As a senior student, I was also responsible for lab management such as maintenance of the biosafety cabinet.

What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
MBB 308-Molecular Biology laboratory: this course is based on modern
recombinant nucleic acid methods. I really enjoyed swapping/modifying bacterial genes which produced fluorescent bacterial colonies (super cool stuff!). Although, it included some of the most crucial steps of DNA and RNA isolation, plasmid preparation, restriction enzyme digestion, DNA cloning, and polymerase chain reaction.

Favourite science joke or meme from your field?

If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
Multi-channel pipette, as I am good at multi-tasking in a lab setting with accuracy and speed.

Who is your biggest science crush?
Sherlock Holmes (Forensic Scientist) because every person working in a lab setting must have his qualities of being observant all the time and being logical without jumping to conclusions.

What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
Weird and scary sound of an unbalanced centrifuge as it might cause damage to the centrifuge or contamination in the cell culture which means starting all over again.

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