SFU Undergrad Researcher: Danielle Thompson

Next up in our series of scholarly SFU students, we have Danielle Thompson of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry!

Name: Danielle Thompson
Major: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Year: Third
Supervisor: Dr. David Schaeffer, Vancouver General Hospital Pathology department

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: This is a question that has had many different answers over the years, but currently my goal is to become a genetic counselor.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: The first research experience I ever had was working in Dr. Barry Honda’s lab at SFU. I knew Dr. Honda from a group he put together in my first year so I emailed him one day asking if he knew of any professors in the MBB department looking for 2nd year volunteers. He ended up offering that I come work in his lab so I spent two semesters there before getting my co-op at VGH.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far? (What is your research about?)
A: The project I’m currently working on is for a type of pancreatic cancer called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or PDAC for short. That’s all I’m allowed to disclose about the project…but if you do a little bit of research into this type of cancer, you will learn that it is pretty aggressive. Less than 10% of all patients diagnosed with PDAC are expected to be alive 5 years after their diagnosis.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: It really depends on the day! Some days I am super busy and I feel like I barely have time to eat, and other days I have no lab work to do so I end up researching papers and other supplementary materials that I think would help my understanding of some of the projects going on around me. When I am in the lab, typical work that I do will include DNA/RNA extractions, real-time PCR, cutting pancreas FFPE blocks on the microtome, followed by prepping those sections on PEN slides for dissection by laser-capture microdissection (LCM). A majority of my time right now is spent on the LCM because it can take the entire day to go through 10 slides and dissect the parts that I am interested in.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: That’s easy. MBB 321-Intermediary Metabolism with Dr, Northwood.

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Dr. Vlachos. Let’s be real- she’s great.