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Feb. 15, 2017

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Associate Professor, Biology

My research program focuses on how organisms get the energy they need to thrive in challenging environmental conditions. All living things require energy to function, but the many ways that organisms do this are poorly understood. In most organisms, including people, the electron transport system in the mitochondrion, which is located inside each cell, transduces energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the energetic currency of the cell and allows organisms to grow, reproduce and survive. In humans, there are four protein complexes in mitochondria that work together to make ATP.

A paper I recently published is the result of six years of laboratory work examining how to fix this process when one of the four proteins does not work. When I was completing my doctoral studies, I was the first in the world to discover that alternative oxidase, a protein previously thought to exist only in plants, also existed in a number of animals, including oysters. For me, that is the lure of science – discovering new things.

Working with students in my lab allows me to test my ideas and train students as well. I put my former students as first authors on the paper because they did the bulk of the experiments and contributed significantly to the analysis and writing. My students were also a lot of fun to work with.

I am passionate about my lab work, teaching, and addressing challenges faced by women in science and sharing my work with the wider community of scientists and the public through my blog. The under-representation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is a topic that is very personally and professionally important to me. I’ve spoken about this issue on the local CBC station with my Laurier colleagues Anne Wilson and Eden Hennessey.

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