Where are you from?
I’m from Calgary. I did my BA in psychology at the University of Calgary and I was a graduate student there as well. To be honest, I started out in psychology because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Psychology allows you to take a lot of electives, at least in the first year. That worked out quite well, actually. I took a lot of courses in philosophy, which were really helpful for learning to write decently. In my third and fourth years, I became more interested in the neuroscience side of psychology. It was a brain and behaviour course that first sparked my interest in neuroscience and the idea of studying how the brain works. I ended up doing my master’s and PhD in a behavioural neuroscience lab. I finished my PhD at the end of 2018. At the time, I knew a little bit about Dr. Mohajerani and the research he was doing here in Lethbridge. I thought it sounded interesting, and I was intrigued by some of the techniques and technologies being used in his lab. I also wanted to learn more about systems neuroscience, which is the focus of his lab. So I came to work here.
When did you come to the U of L and what do you do here?
I started here in April. I picked an interesting time, because it coincided with the big move into the new Science Commons building. So there’s been a bit of a hold on starting any new projects until now. I’ve been trying to use this time to get up to speed on new research techniques, reading the literature on Alzheimer’s disease, and trying to learn a little bit of coding in MATLAB and Python. I’m also working on writing a review paper right now, until we can get experiments running. For my post-doctoral fellowship, some of the research I proposed involves looking at what zinc does in the brain. There are certain cells in certain parts of the brain that actually release zinc to communicate with each other. We know this, but we don’t have a great understanding of exactly why they do that or what functions are being supported. One thing I’d like to look at is the role of zinc in the visual cortex, a part of the brain that is important for visual perception. I hope to understand what zinc is doing there, how it’s acting on brain cells, and, if you get rid of zinc, how vision is affected. I’m funded by NSERC for two years to do that research. If possible, I would like to get funding to stay longer and to pursue research on Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s the best thing about doing research?
Ultimately, the hope of making a new discovery or contributing new knowledge, something that might be useful to people. But on a day-to-day level, one great thing about research is you’re always learning or doing something new. Either learning new techniques, running experiments, or delving into new areas of the literature. Science is moving at such a pace now, it’s difficult just keep up with all the new information that’s coming out in your own field, let alone in others. It can be kind of daunting, but the good part is that there’s never a dull moment. It never gets boring. One thing I really like about the lab I’m in now is the people I get to work with. Many don’t come from standard neuroscience backgrounds like biology or psychology. A lot of them have backgrounds in engineering, physics, computer programming, that sort of thing. It’s interesting to work with people who are very competent in these different areas that I don’t know much about, and trying to learn a little bit from them to improve my research.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I play guitar half decently. I’ve played in bands pretty much since high school, up until I moved to Lethbridge. Now I mainly just play for my six-month-old son. It’s nice to have a captive audience. I would be interested in getting back into playing in a band one day.