A capstone experience in the Queen's Biology undergraduate program is the Honours Thesis. This year, I had the pleasure of mentoring two extraordinarily talented young women - 4th-year students Danalyn Holmes and Alexandra Johnson Dingee. Both worked on deciphering the function of the Ca2+-dependent protein kinase CPK28 in Arabidopsis. We and others have shown that this kinase functions in both developmental and immune pathways. Danalyn used epistasis analysis to test if the proteins involved in CPK28-mediated immune signalling are also required for CPK28-mediated developmental signalling. Alex took a trans-complementation approach to test the role of phosphorylation in directing CPK28 function in the two pathways. Together, Danalyn and Alex have made significant contributions to our research program.
Both were recognized with Second Place prizes in the Cell & Molecular Biology section. Very well deserved - congrats on a job well done!
I was honoured to be nominated by the Natural Sciences Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to attend this year's Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum as part of their Future Leader program. The STS Forum was held at the Kyoto Convention Centre - a unique building surrounded by beautiful gardens. The Forum brings together people from academia, business, and government to discuss the role of science and technology in solving global issues. For 3 days, we heard from panel speakers and participated at round-table discussions on topics such as genome engineering, global health and medicine, artificial intelligence, robotics, disaster prevention, availability of water, and many others. A buffet dinner was held at Kennin-ji Temple, where we were entertained by traditional Japanese performers. This meeting was very different from any other I've attended in the past, and I am thankful to NSERC for sending me.
After the conference, I traveled to Yokohama to visit my friends and colleagues in Ken Shirasu's lab at RIKEN: Yasuhiro Kadota, Shuta Asai, and Thomas Spallek. We all used to work together at the Sainsbury Lab - it was a great reunion and so inspiring to learn what everyone is working on now. The visit ended with a delicious meal of sashimi and shabushabu.
This week the lab took a few days off to retreat in the woods north of Kingston. We stayed overnight at Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre and enjoyed canoeing, hiking, s'mores, and board games. We also bid farewell to our talented technician Heather, who is off to Ireland for a year to earn her undergraduate degree in Biotechnology.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting McMaster University in Hamilton ON. I presented our current work on post-translational regulation of CPK28 and BIK1, and also served for the first time as an external examiner on a PhD thesis in the Department of Life Sciences. I was invited by my friend and first research mentor, Robin Cameron. Robin supervised me when I was in my second year of undergrad at the University of Toronto and introduced me to the fascinating world of molecular plant biology and immunology.
It was a great visit!
This year's Annual CSPB Meeting was held in beautiful Vancouver hosted by the Botany Department at my alma mater UBC. Inspiring plenary lectures were given by Elliot Meyerowitz, Siobhan Braybrook, Cara Haney, Sabeeha Merchant, Matthew Bracken, Yves Desjardin, and Harry Klee. There were over 100 talks and nearly 60 posters presented over the few days of the meeting. It was wonderful to spend the week in this breathtaking city with great colleagues showcasing impressive Canadian plant science.