SFU Undergrad Researcher: Tiffany Barszczewski

Introducing Tiffany Barszczewski from the Department of Biomedical Physiology!


Name: Tiffany Barszczewski
Year: 3rd year
Major: Biomedical Physiology
Supervisor: Dr. Glen Tibbits

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I think, more than anything else, I want to be a mother. A good one. Both of my parents worked really hard to come to Canada and to establish themselves here. Despite their challenges, they raised three healthy, loving children. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I will be able to balance family life with practicing medicine, becoming a professor, or whatever else I might decide to do. It will come with its trials and hurdles, but I believe it is possible to find that balance between what I want at home and what I want as a professional.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I had recently switched into the Biomedical Physiology program and wanted to be a more involved student. A friend recommended I email some professors in the department to see if they needed help in their labs. I looked up the research profiles of the professors, and I was interested in almost all of them, so I sent quite a few emails asking if anyone needed a volunteer in the lab for the summer. I received a lot of polite no’s, which I totally understood: I had only taken one course in BPK, my GPA wasn’t the most coveted, and I was just at the end of my second year. Did I seem promising over email? Probably not. When I received a reply from Dr. Glen Tibbits to meet and get acquainted with two of his PhD students, I was shocked. The learning experience I had that summer was one that I will never forget. I began to really see the meaningful purpose behind the research going on in the lab, and I even got my name on a poster they presented at a conference in Copenhagen! Currently, I am completing a Directed Studies semester with my mentor (Alison, you’re the best!), and will soon be presenting my own research poster at BPK Research Day.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: Cardiac troponin complex plays a significant role in regulating contractile strength of the heart through calcium (Ca)-binding. Some mutations in troponin’s three subunits can alter this property of the cardiomyocytes, leading to arrhythmias and, even more unfortunately, sudden cardiac death. I perform E. coli recombinant methods and purify the troponin subunits with a couple of mutations using various chromatography techniques. I will eventually combine these subunits together to make reconstituted thin filament and examine the changes in Ca binding kinetics of mutations in the thin filament using stopped-flow apparatus. The mutations I am looking at are related to the sudden infant death syndrome research Tibbits Lab has been working on. Going back to wanting to be a good mother one day, some people do not have it as easy. Some only get a few days or months to be parents before their children pass away unexpectedly. Was it something they had done? Could there have been a way to prevent this from happening? Will this happen again the next time they have a baby? The answer is still unknown, and I cannot imagine the pain these people must go through, topped with a lack of closure. I hope to see promise in the future for SIDS research so these parents can get the answers they deserve.

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: I’ll be studying for the MCAT. I have tried to push the thought of it out of my mind. I hope to pop into the lab a couple times a week too. I love being able to clear my head a bit by doing some pipetting here and there, and I’d probably miss the smell of me killing E. coli with bleach.

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Marie Curie. Truly a legend. Two Nobels, died by her life’s work, and a woman of science pushing through a time where the world was much less friendly towards women. She’s also Polish, like me. Whenever Marie is mentioned in class or in a textbook, I can’t help but smile.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: The first thing that came to mind was the Bunsen burner. Fire scares me, but I have to work closely with the flame when I’m working with E. Coli. Honestly though, I am afraid of letting Dr. Tibbits down. I’ve worked really hard to understand the background material related to our research, especially because when I started volunteering, I hadn’t taken his course or any other higher physiology courses. He probably does not have super high expectations for me, but I constantly want to show him my growth, hard work, and passion for learning.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: The -80 C fridge? It’s not really a lab instrument, but I guess I can relate to it the most. Pretty cold, keeps things pent up inside for a really long time, and ruins people’s lives when it stops working properly.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Matthew Garayt

Introducing Matthew Garayt from the Department of Physics! 


Name: Matthew Garayt
Major: Applied Physics, Honors
Supervisor: Dr. Michael Seear, BC Children’s Hospital

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: Right now, I am still exploring my possibilities, but I would like to work in high-
technology one day, whether it be more at the research level, or the
refining/engineering level. Ultimately, I would like to use the knowledge I have
gained so far in my degree in whatever field I end up in.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I applied to the Science Co-op program and once my job search was underway, I
saw the posting for the position and was immediately intrigued as the description
was not very long. I applied, interviewed, and received an offer in short order.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: We research possible alternatives to the traditional diagnosis of respiratory
illnesses in young children. Current accepted methods are not accurate for
children younger than six years old, so based on other research we analyze data
of each patient, collected from a medical monitor, by putting it through multiple
mathematical and statistical algorithms. After we have enough patients, we can
try to draw conclusions on what analyses yield the best results as compared to
the traditional tests.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: Arrive at the respiratory clinic early in the morning, continue researching new
methods that might be of use, analyze any raw data that might exist, and take
patients’ vitals’ signs for analysis if we have any for that day.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: I quite enjoyed Mathematical Methods in Theoretical Physics taught by Professor
Howard Trottier as the course introduced many new, helpful mathematical
concepts that I would later use in other classes while also studying myriad
physical phenomena in a fun way.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: I would have to say a laser as I always try to be as precise as possible; people’s
health or quality of life may be at stake.

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field? Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 5.28.04 PM

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Maybe not a scientist in the truest sense, but Elon Musk. You cannot go wrong
with PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and the Hyperloop.

Q: What’s the funniest thing in the lab that’s happened to you?
A: Nothing really funny, but it always seems to be that whenever I need to talk to my
supervisor he would be out of his office, somewhere unknown in the hospital…

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: The tests we perform on people may one day help diagnose real disorders and
diseases, so if there is a bug in the code somewhere there could be bad


SFU Undergrad Researcher: Shayda Swann

Introducing Shayda Swann from the Faculty of Health Sciences!


Name: Shayda Swann
Year: 4th year
Major: Health Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Mark Brockman

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I want to be a paediatrician and would like to specialize in paediatric infectious disease.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: My first research experience was BISC 272 – Special Topics in Biological Research (shout out Dr. Kevin Lam)

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: I am researching the integration site of HIV into T-cells and how this impacts viral reactivation from latency

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: Usually, I like to get started with my wet lab work right away, and then spend the rest of the day looking at my data while the experiments run. Also, lots of coffee breaks and walks with the rest of the lab are a must!

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: My favourite course is definitely MBB 428 – definitely take it if you have an interest in infectious disease!

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?
A: The gels of my failed PCR…

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Does my high school chemistry teacher count? (shout out Mr. Henderson)
What scares you the most in the lab or the field?

Q: What’s the funniest thing in the lab that’s happened to you?
A: I once connected the electrodes backwards on the electrophoresis box and ended up running my samples off the gel.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Definitely the centrifuge.


SFU Undergrad Researcher: Melissa Vermette

Introducing Melissa Vermette from the Department of Chemistry

MelissaVermettePhotoName: Melissa Vermette
Year: 3rd year
Major: Chemistry

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: An anesthesiologist – however, this whole research gig is getting interesting.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: It started by enrolling in BISC 272 – A special topics in biological science research class. As predominantly 2nd year students we worked in teams and designed our own research projects. I learned an extraordinary amount of invaluable techniques and knowledge about research. I highly recommend taking it.
I also had the opportunity of working in Tony William’s lab and at the Animal Care Facility in the Summer. I gained experience working in the lab, in the field, and with some pretty awesome people. I am thankful to be continuing working with them again this semester.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: Over the summer, in BISC 272, my team and I decided to conduct research on copper’s antimicrobial property. Specifically, the effect surface texture had on its effectiveness to kill bacteria. Currently, I am researching the physiological effects and quality of avian offspring whose parents were subjected to exercise training.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: BISC 272 because it was very different than any other courses I’ve taken. Analytical chemistry is also a close favourite because of the fancy, expensive machinery we used in the labs.

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?

I am sure many chemists can relate.

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Albert Einstein – but really, who doesn’t? I think the most I admire about him is his determination to come up with an alternative to a theory many other scientists had accepted (although unsuccessfully). One of my favourite exchanges is between Einstein and Bohr. Einstein did not agree when Max Born proposed mechanics could be understood as a probability without casual explanation, to which Einstein stated, “God does not play dice” and Bohr replied, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do”.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Centrifuges. They are incredibly useful but absolutely terrifying.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Matthew Nguyen

Introducing Matthew Nguyen of the School of Computing Science and the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry!


Name: Matthew Nguyen
Faculty: Computing Science & Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Year of Study: 3rd
Supervisor: Dr. Leonid Chindelevitch of the Department of Computing Science

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: Back then, I was just an MBB major with some programming interests. At the end of my 2nd year, I decided to email some bioinformatics prof whose research I was interested in. I had only taken 3 CMPT courses, but Dr. Chindelevitch still took me in. Since I lacked the background, I had to do a lot of self-learning but I’m loving it. Working in the lab pretty much solidified my decision to transfer to the joint major, and now here I am!

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far? (What is your research about?)
A: I am finishing up a large scale project to create a computational framework for the classification of pathogens into epidemiologically related groups using genomic data. Specifically, we are combining data from single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and copy number variations (CNVs) to cluster different samples of a pathogen in order to understand their relatedness. Currently, I am working on the implementation and analysis of various clustering algorithms to establish the best one. Upon completion, the project will be integrated into an open-source platform (IRIDA) to help public health authorities analyze epidemics.
With the end in sight, I am also starting up a new project: the use of machine learning methods in order to predict antibiotic resistance in tuberculosis.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: I technically don’t need to be in the lab to do any work. Since all of my work is done on the servers at the BC Genomes Science Center, I can work from anywhere with internet, even at home or on my phone! But I still enjoy being in the lab as it is useful: I can seek assistance or bounce ideas off of my supervisor or the other members of my lab. I’ve also got a sweet setup of dual monitors (I want a third…) and a mechanical keyboard. My work usually consists of writing or debugging code (Python or BASH), running different software and algorithms, analyzing the results (maybe run some statistical analyses with R) and writing documentation.

Q: What’s your favorite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: CMPT 310 with Dr. Maxwell Libbrecht: Artificial Intelligence Survey. AI is one of THE buzzwords right now. Although this is just a survey course, it is a fascinating introduction to a growing field in computing science, a field which became my main research interest. Machine learning is huge in bioinformatics right now, and although I still lack the in-depth knowledge, this course was a refreshing intro to how it all works. I started self-teaching a lot of machine learning after this great intro.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Unexpected results that make no sense are horrible to deal with, especially when I have to use someone else’s program in my pipeline. Did I do something wrong? Is the program I’m using just bad? Maybe if I run it again without changing anything it’ll work…

Q: What is your favorite science joke or meme from your field?
A: I may or may not look at memes too much… I can thank Reddit for that. Shameless plug for /r/programmerhumor.

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 10.14.09 PM


SFU Undergrad Researcher: Claudio Feijoo

Introducing Claudio Feijoo of the Department of Mathematics and School of Computing Science!

Name: Claudio Feijoo
Major: Mathematics and Computing Science (Joint)
Year: Fourth
Supervisor: Dr. David Muraki of the Department of Mathematics

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I want to do programming once I am done studying. It has always been a passion of mine and it is very natural for me to code and debug.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I was looking for a co-op position and noticed I could make research count for it so I decided to throw my name for the selection of USRAs.

Q: What are you researching?
A: I am researching for new non-linear forms of a dipole (a travelling wave disturbance in the atmosphere) that satisfies a partial differential equation.

Q: What is a typical day in the lab for you?
A: The day usually starts by scanning some notes to send to my supervisor followed by a lenghty Skype call. After that, I code and test what was discussed in the call.

Q: What’s your favourite SFU course?
A: I would say MATH251 just due to how challenging and useful it is.

Q: What’s your favourite sciene joke or meme from your field?
A: Saw a paper in the bus stop a couple of years ago using the Bad Luck Brian meme with the caption “Wants to take a GPA booster, takes MATH242“.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: I want to say a computer just because I want to become a source of endless information 😛

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Cant say I have any, honestly.

Q: What’s the funniest thing that happened to you in the lab?
A: I worked by myself in any quiet place I could find. This one time, I was in one of the computer labs in the AQ on a skype call. All of a sudden I realized that a class has started while I was distracted on my project! Had to apologize and rush out of there.

Q: What scares you the most when working in the lab or field?
A: The fact that you don’t know whether you are on the right track/got good results. These questions haven’t been answered before so it is always nerve-wracking when you are following a lead.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Yasmin Khalili

Introducing Yasmin Khalili of the Department of Biology!


Name: Yasmin Khalili
Faculty: Health Sciences major, Biological Sciences minor
Year of Study: 3rd
Supervisor: Dr. Allison Cornell and Dr. Tony Williams from the Department of Biology at SFU (former), Dr. Lindsay Rite and Dr. Brenda Lau at CHANGEpain Clinic (current)

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I have always been fascinated by the health care field, the more I learn the more questions I have and the more I want to know! I hope to be in a profession where I can combine my passion for health care, academia, and helping others. I enjoy working with patients, doing hands on work, and teaching so hopefully I will be in a position that combines all those things!

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I first got involved in research when I was taking BISC 102 through my amazing TA for the course, the then-PhD-candidate-now-professor Dr. Allison Cornell! We documented avian song, nest building, and pre-copulatory behaviours through binoculars to assess how breeding times were affected by weather changes. In other words, we would head to our research site in Langley at 6am to spy and take data on birds to see if we could cause fluctuations in the pre-copulatory behaviours (sex) that the birds were having. Super cool!
I am now working as a Research Assistant at CHANGEpain Clinic. Our team consists of anesthesiologists, a doctor of chiropractic, UBC medical school students, and other staff members at the clinic like myself who are passionate about chronic pain and hope to improve care for patients.

Q: What have you been working on this summer?
A: This summer our primary focus for the research team has been working on several case study papers that we have submitted for publication to the CME Journal. The most recent one focused on different modulators for chronic pain was just recently submitted for publication. Through it we hope to educate family physicians on how they can best help their patients who present with complex chronic pain cases. The authors included the witty UBC medical student Curtis May, our incredible Chiropractor and Research Team Lead Dr. Lindsay Rite, the absolute genius and UBC Medical School Pain Medicine Residency program Medical Director Dr. Branda Lau, and… me! . We will be working on another paper to be sent for publication later in the year soon, as well as starting several QI projects at the clinic.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: At CHANGEpain Clinic we have two main focuses with our research: 1. to provide family physicians with information and the most up to date knowledge when dealing with patients who present with chronic pain as their first line investigators. Chronic pain can be very complex and unfortunately it is not a topic that all GP’s have a great understanding of how to deal with. And 2. to teach other health care providers about the multidisciplinary approach we have at our clinic, with an emphasis on patient empowerment and not just treatment. Soon we will be implementing QI research as well.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: I have had many courses that I have loved during my time at SFU (BISC 102 with Dr. Isabelle Cote, HSCI 130 with Dr. Rochelle Tucker, BISC 202 with Dr. Mike Hart, just to name a few!) but one that stood out to me more than any other was HSCI 214 with the late Dr. Elliot Goldner. With a focus on mental health and illnesses HSCI 214 taught students the other side of mental illnesses, and how to empathize with and help those in need. To really have an impact on the students Dr. Goldner arranged for guest speakers who were dealing with mental illnesses themselves, such as Schizophrenia, to come to the lecture and talk about their experiences. This method of teaching was not only incredibly eye opening, but also a learning experience that I will never forget.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: A curvilinear probe on an ultrasound machine!

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Donyanaz Divsalar

Introducing Donya Naz Divsalar of the Faculty of Health Sciences!

Name: Donya Naz Divsalar
Major: Health Sciences
Year of Study: Third
Supervisor: Dr. Chris Kennedy of the Department of Biology

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: We are currently studying the biological effects of an anti-sea lice pesticide, Salmosan, on the
Pacific spot prawn.
What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
There are different sets of procedures done in the lab daily. For me, it usually includes recording
the changes in the organisms, preparing solutions, measuring different qualities of water, such as
PH, temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen, and changing water if need be.

Q: What do you wanna be when you grow up?
A: Growing up, I have definitely always been fascinated by various branches of sciences. I was
extremely fortunate to be given an opportunity to attend Medical school in Europe, and that
made me realize my passion for helping others, through clinical Medicine. I hope to pursue a
career in healthcare, with a focus on mental health.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I have always been seeking diversity in my area of knowledge. I got involved with
Environmental Toxicology lab in spring, and even though it seemed to be very different from my
major of choice, I was totally mesmerized by the research focus and the different procedures that
were done in the lab. For me, research is a way to expand my knowledge of different areas of
science, get to have a hands-on experience in a dynamic environment, and being a part of an
awesome team with passionate individuals who share similar interests and goals.

Q: Whats your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: HSCI 130, Foundations of Health Sciences. An absolutely fascinating course that challenged my
critical thinking about epidemiology and population health, and made me realize my passion for
global health and disease prevention.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Leea Stotty

Introducing Leea Stotty of the Departments of Physics and Chemistry!


Name: Leea Stotty
Major: Chemical Physics
Year: Third
Supervisor: Dr. Jeffrey Warren of the Department of Chemistry

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I do know that I want to do something that combines technical skill with creative thinking, however at this point I don’t think that I am fully aware of the extent of the opportunities that will be available to me as a Chemistry/Physics undergraduate. It’s my goal to really focus on figuring that out over the next few years remaining in my degree.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I have always enjoyed lab work and was eager to get a job in a lab.  After taking a class with Jeff Warren; I approached him about a volunteer position and he got me started on a project right away; I volunteered over the spring semester and he gave me a summer research job.

Q: What are your research interests?
A: As I am at the beginning of my research career, my interests are still fairly general. I really enjoyed the focus on alternative energy and electrochemistry in Jeff Warren’s lab, and would love to do research in fuel cells ─ on top of that, I am also very interested in both electromagnetism and nuclear chemistry. I’m in the process of developing my programming skills and will be seeking an opportunity to exercise them in a lab setting; all in all I am very open minded to any interesting projects that come my way.

Q: What is your research about?
A: The research I did with Jeff Warrens group was testing a copper based water oxidation catalyst; we found that, in basic solutions, this catalyst reduced the overpotential of the oxidation of water; this reaction is important in fuel cells and the storage of solar energy.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: I was performing electrochemical experiments, trying to pin point the best conditions (pH and concentration) for the formation of our copper based catalyst. Once these conditions were found we wanted to know how much oxygen was produced via electrolysis as a metric for the efficiency of this catalyst. Typically, my day would start with the preparation of various solutions and set-up of whatever electrochemical experiment I was to carry out. I would prepare electrodes and glassware and ensure my reaction cell was set up optimally. Once my solutions and equipment were ready to go, the cell would be assembled and I would carry any final experiment prep. As I ran my experiment I would usually perform some data analysis on matLAB or study similar projects to ours. The last 15 minutes of my day was usually spent cleaning up or organizing things for the next day. That was probably my average day, although other days were spent doing focusing on UV/VIS spectroscopy, NMR, or EPR experiments, preparing figures or writing sections of our paper and organizing the lab.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: My favourite course so far has also been the most difficult; Introduction to Electrodynamics (PHYS 321) starts at the building blocks of electro and magneto statics and ends off with Maxwell’s Equations of Electrodynamics; I’ve always found this subject infatuating and I love the math-heavy description of it. It was definitely the most challenging class I have ever taken, although it turned out to be equally as satisfying in the end.

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?
A: One of the chemistry based facebook groups I follow posted a picture of a formadahyde molecule and then beside it the same molecule in shorts and a t-shirt with “casual-dehyde” written above it. It’s so ridiculous and gets me every time.


Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: If I had to choose the instrument I am most alike to I would say the centrifuge because I am usually rushing around from place to place in the lab, and at some point in the day my head will be spinning!

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Does Matthew Mcconaughey playing the role of a scientist count? No, I’m kidding. I would have to say Marie Curie is my biggest science crush. Even without regard to the obstacles and restraints she had to overcome her achievements are extremely impressive. She discovered two new elements and developed radioactive theory, the ultimate bad-ass!

Q: What’s the funniest thing in the lab that’s happened to you?
A: Obviously, we aren’t supposed to bring food or drinks into the lab, but I used to always hide my coffee behind the computer I was working on so I could keep myself caffeinated as I carried out experiments. One morning I left my fresh coffee in the lab while I went to run a quick errand. When I returned, my coffee was gone and in my tired state I couldn’t recall what I had done with it. I spent a good amount of time looking all over the lab, disgruntled and un-caffinated, all the while trying to hide the fact that I was looking for my coffee. I finally gave up and went to get a new one, when I returned to the lab I spotted my original coffee high on top of one of the cabinets.  Turns out Jeff hid my coffee from me all along. Lesson learned!

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: My biggest fear is investing a lot of time into a project only to discover that I was wrong all along. I’ve heard that this does happen to many researchers, sometimes after several months of experiments. I had my own scare when my oxygen monitoring experiments were proving very difficult, I was terrified that maybe our catalyst wasn’t actually doing much catalysis. I guess investing in any research is always a gamble and that is something that I will have to grow to accept.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Aaron Lyons

Introducing Aaron Lyons of the Department of Physics!

2017-05-08 13.31.46

Name: Aaron Lyons
Major: Biological Physics
Year: Fourth
Supervisor: Dr. Nancy Forde of the Department of Physics

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I’d like to continue doing research after I’m done school, but I’m as uncertain as anyone about where that might be. There are lots of biotech companies in Vancouver, but in my experience industry research can be a lot less rewarding than what I’m doing now.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: One of the previous PhD students in the lab that I’m working for had to leave Vancouver on fairly short notice, so her supervisor was shopping around for a student to take on some of the experiments that still needed to be done. It just so happened that I was taking a lab course with that supervisor at the time, and since she was happy with my work she offered me a position in the lab.

Q: What is your research about?
A: I study the mechanical properties of collagen using atomic force microscopy, or AFM. Collagens are long, thin proteins, so we can learn a lot about how flexible they are by just looking at the conformations the molecules adopt in the AFM images. It’s kind of like putting a few pieces of string in a box and shaking them, except the strings are 300 nm long proteins and the shaking is thermal fluctuation.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: AFM can be incredibly sensitive to noise, so my typical days are actually nights. Unless I have a meeting or class to go to, I’ll get to the lab at 4 or 5 pm and do any sample preparation and instrument setup that needs to be done. I usually start AFM imaging around 6 pm, because that’s generally when
people stop slamming their doors and clambering down the hallways like elephants.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: It would have to be Protein Structure and Function (MBB 423). The class is an odd mix of biology, chemistry and physics, but each field lends itself to a different aspect of the course in a really cool way.

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?
A friend who’s in liquor production
Has a still of astounding construction.
The alcohol boils,
Through an old magnet coil.
He says that it’s proof by induction.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: I guess I’d be a micropipette: versatile but in frequent need of calibration. I pride myself on being multidisciplinary, but it can take a lot of discipline on my part to pursue one project for an extended period of time.

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Maud Menten. Almost everyone that’s taken a biology course has heard about the Michaelis-Menten equation, but I don’t know how many people realize that Menten was Canadian. With 114 years of seperation, admiration is probably a better word, but she’s definitely someone who I would have liked to meet once.

Q: What’s the funniest thing in the lab that’s happened to you?
A: We had a shipment sent to us from Australia by some collaborators, and since the materials were heat sensitive they sent it to us in this futuristic-looking capsule filled with liquid nitrogen-soaked insulation. Since neither my supervisor nor I had ever seen anything like it, we started reading the instructions on how to open the capsule. It seemed simple: twist the cap off and pull on the handles to lift the container out. So we opened it up (at which point the liquid nitrogen started evaporating like crazy) and yanked on the handles – which proceeded to snap. At this point, the metal container had frozen to the sides of the capsule wall, and the heat-sensitive contents inside the container were rapidly approaching room temperature. Being pressed for time, we ended up chipping away at the ice and prying the container out with a set of barbeque tools from the physics kitchen, much to the amusement of the people watching our panicked frenzy. It was stressful at the time, but I look back on it and laugh now.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: I know it’s silly, but I have an irrational fear of freak centrifuge accidents. I’ve probably centrifuged things thousands of times, but I always have this nagging feeling that the centrifuge will somehow launch itself across the room. Those things are scary.