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Biologist named Laurier’s University Research Professor for 2011-12
May 24/11| For Immediate Release
Dr. Paul Maxim, Associate VP, Research
Kevin Crowley, Director, Communications & Public Affairs
WATERLOO – Biologist Lucy Lee has been named Laurier’s University Research Professor for 2011-2012.
The award allows the recipient to devote more time to research and less to teaching for a year, and also provides funds to assist the recipient with research expenses.
Lee, a professor at Laurier since 1997, teaches cell biology, developmental biology, and comparative histology, among other subjects.
She is an active researcher, internationally recognized for her expertise in the field of reducing, refining or replacing animals used in environmental risk assessment, primarily through producing fish cell lines. Toxicology tests, for example, could be performed with fish cells produced in a lab as a supplement, or pre-screening tests to reduce/refine fish raised to be lab specimens.
Lee is often invited to speak at conferences around the world and her knowledge is sought out by other researchers and international organizations.
Private companies are also interested in her work (oil sands producers are funding some of her research to establish cell lines of fish indigenous to the Athabasca basin), and so are the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the United States Army, whose Center for Environmental Health Research wants to develop testing devices based on a marriage of fish cell culture assays and microchip technology (“fish and chips”) that could be used to test water in the field, in real time.
While producing fish cell lines is now relatively commonplace, nobody has yet been able to produce cell lines for crustaceans like lobsters, crabs and shrimp.
Canada is a significant exporter of lobster (about $1 billion annually), but the industry is threatened by overfishing. The answer may be in farming lobster, just as Atlantic salmon and tilapia are farmed, but very little is known about lobster at the cellular level that could provide answers to some unique characteristics – what makes them grow seemingly indefinitely? How can they live for over 100 years? What makes them cannibalistic? How can they re-grow claws?
Lee will devote a portion of her research time to producing a lobster cell line.
“My students and I have previously tried to develop crustacean cell lines, and I believe we are close to tracking why it is difficult, but not impossible.”