SFU Undergraduate Researcher: Mariam Aziz

Name: Mariam Aziz
Faculty: Biomedical Physiology
Year of Study: Fourth Year
Supervisor: Peter Ruben

Q: What are your career interests?
A: In the future, I would like to pursue a career in medicine.   

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: My friend was working in the Molecular Cardiac Physiology Group (MCPG) with Dr. Ruben and she asked him if he would accept an undergrad. I emailed Dr. Ruben and we had an interview and he was very open and welcoming for me to start volunteering at his lab.

Q: What does your research involve?
A: My project that I am hoping to work on soon is looking at co-localization of NCX (sodium calcium exchanger – it brings in sodium and kicks out Ca, this helps maintain Ca levels in the cell), NHE (sodium hydrogen exchanger – it brings in sodium and kicks out H+ to maintain the cell’s pH) and CaV with NaV in the invadopodia of prostate cancer cells.  I am also working on observing changes in sodium current with different mutations in the channel.  CaV and NaV are voltage gate channels that open and allow the ions in when the cell is depolarized.  It’s theorized that the presence of these channels at the leading edge of cancer cells is what helps them to be invasive; this invasive leading edge is called the invadopodia. 

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: When I get to the lab, the first thing I do is check in with the seniors and see what they have planned for their day.  I ask if there is anything they need help with or anything I can learn from them.  If it’s the beginning of the week I start preparing oocytes or bacterial work for experiments later in the week.  Somedays there is more work than others and I have to stay longer to do upkeep in the lab, like autoclaving tools or making solutions. 

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: By far I can say that BPK 420 and 326 were my favorite courses at SFU,  but they are both upper division classes. If I had to pick a lower division course that I really enjoyed it would be CHEM 286.  These courses were all a lot more hands-on or they explored the “why” in the topics that we studied rather than scratching the surface of the topic. 

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: Either a microscope lamp – because they are so so small yet very very powerful and if something happens to them, the work actually stops

OR

An automated pipette – just because it makes your life so much easier

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Victoria Claydon because she is a great mom and an amazing teacher and she does that while maintaining the integrity of her work in the lab. 

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Not being able to do the things that I have to do because of technical difficulties.  It’s actually scarier than it sounds.  You can have everything ready to go but if a shipment doesn’t come or a machine crashes there isn’t much you can do and everything is postponed for weeks. 

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?
A:

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