1. You were involved with the Alberta MS Network during your time as a PhD student at the University of Alberta. For you, what was the most beneficial aspect of the Network?
There are so many things that I love about the Alberta MS Network but if I had to single one out, I think I would pick our annual retreats (aka the Alberta MS Network Forum). I really found the collegial vibe to the entire event very beneficial. I was able to discuss science with other graduate students, post-docs, and PIs in a relaxed environment. I also found the involvement of the private sector and the government representatives to be highly engaging. In addition, being able to interact with and hear the stories of people suffering from MS, just adds a whole new perspective to our work in the lab. All in all, the event is informative, invigorating, and rejuvenating – something that I looked forward to each year.
2. Can you tell us a little more about your current position and the work you are doing?
I completed my doctoral dissertation in November 2019 at the University of Alberta. Soon after, I moved to University of Texas at Dallas as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic had taken off in North America. During the next few weeks, I became part of a larger project aimed at identifying a potential role of neurogenic inflammation in the lungs of COVID-19 patients. Neurogenic inflammation is also a common phenomenon in the nervous tissue of individuals with MS. My current project builds upon my PhD projects and focuses on translation regulation of stress-resistant genes in sensory neurons and their contribution to chronic pain following cellular stress, a common occurrence in MS.
3. Do you have any advice for our trainees?
My advice to the trainees is simply to ‘be resilient’. Over the past eleven years as a trainee is science, I have learned that there are good days and then there are bad days. Whether it is an emotional or a physical challenge, you just need to remember to power through those bad days and use them as fuel for your goals. When your paper gets rejected, modify, update and submit elsewhere. When your scholarship/fellowship grant gets rejected, modify, update and submit again next year. Just don’t give up.
Throughout my training, I have been very fortunate to have been supported by many external scholarships and fellowships.I would highly recommend every trainee to apply for external scholarships even if you do not feel that you are competitive enough when compared to your peers. Majority of the time, this mindset is only in our heads and we do not ascribe enough worth to ourselves. Imposter syndrome is real and the first step in overcoming it is to recognize it exists. Plus, the act of preparing a grant proposal allows us to take a step back and view our own work from a different perspective.
4. Any other information that you would like to share.
I would like to take a few words and say that all minority groups, including those of African and Indigenous descent,are part and parcel of our community. I believe that Alberta MS Network is a great example of the kind of inclusivity and diversity that is required from other scientific organizations. As a minority, I never felt excluded or discriminated against. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but I feel that the Alberta MS Network is definitely heading in the right direction. We, as a community, need to reach out to the underprivileged and underserved, and help uplift them so that we all can benefit from what they have to offer.
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