PhD candidate, Carleton University
And - Recipient, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada - Postgraduate Scholarship-Doctoral
I wouldn’t say there was one defining moment that made me realize I wanted to pursue chemistry, but there was definitely a collection of amazing experiences that resulted in me not being able to imagine life without it.
What do you do?
In my research, I use functional DNA to develop new ways to diagnose vascular diseases that involve clotting of blood. One important example of such diseases is a stroke with the severity of the outcome largely dependent on precision of the diagnosis. My favourite part about this work is that I get to use a biological molecule (DNA) in an unconventional way (as an aptamer). Every aptamer assumes a unique 3D shape and is selected to bind a specific target; they can be thought of as a key that only works for one lock. I use this principle in order to find where blood clots are being formed during an MRI or a CT scan. This allows for early detection of blood vessel abnormalities, which helps quickly diagnose and treat conditions that may result in neurological deficit or death.
Why did you choose this field?
I wouldn’t say that there was one defining moment that made me realize I wanted to pursue chemistry, but there was definitely a collection of amazing experiences that resulted in me not being able to imagine life without it. I spent years volunteering at the hospital doing research for a radiologist, which is where I was initially exposed to MRI and CT imaging. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to follow a career in medicine or research, but I was certain that I wanted to do something that would contribute to the field of medicine, even in the most miniscule of ways. I ended up choosing chemistry because it has been described as a central science, which essentially helps to explain life on a fundamental level. Chemistry helps get to the bottom of the question “Why?”. During my undergrad, I took a course that was taught by my current supervisor. Over the years, she has really fed my passion for research and ultimately became one of my role models. These were all contributing factors that led me to where I am now, and as an aspiring researcher, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I recently became the recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Postgraduate Scholarship-Doctoral (PGS D), which is offered to individuals based on their academic excellence, research ability, as well as communication, interpersonal and leadership abilities. It was such a humbling experience and younger me would have never believed that I had enough potential to achieve this, especially in the field of science. This was particularly true when I first moved to Canada from Russia and didn’t speak any English. It’s hard to imagine that the young girl who didn’t know the meaning of the word “Hello” is now being recognized based on the criteria for this award.
Why do you love working in STEM?
In science, you’re surrounded by ideas that are constantly evolving and adapting, always challenging you to apply yourself. There is no chance for your work to become stagnant because every day is guaranteed to be different. You get the opportunity to discover new things and the best part about it is being able to share it with a group of individuals who are equally as passionate about science. What I look forward to the most is exchanging ideas among my colleagues, trying new things, and celebrating every small victory.
Best advice for next generation?
Refuse to let the difficult times define your story. Keep dreaming, keep pushing, and look forward to the moment when you can reflect on the past and be proud that you let nothing get in your way. No one we admire and that inspires us got to where they are without rejection, hardship, and some failure. What matters is, they never stopped.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
I’m fascinated by history and often catch myself on a “Wikipedia dive” in the late hours of the night, especially after watching a historical movie or documentary.