How the human body works is something that has always fascinated M.Sc. student Elicia Yap. And that fascination is also a big part of what makes working with the epifluorescence microscope in Trent’s Biology Imaging Suite so compelling.
“Viewing our body under a magnifying glass and discovering all the intricate details about ourselves has always captivated me,” says Elicia. “It’s been a driving force for me to delve into the realm of biology.”
Elicia’s current research involves looking into the rare (and fatal) neurodegenerative Batten disease, and the cellular role of one of the causative proteins (Mfsd8). Through using the Imaging Suite’s epifluorescence microscope, she’s able to observe cellular structures and look at how they are affected in the absence of Mfsd8. This means gaining a better understanding of the functions of this protein in the cell. Ultimately, the research could shed light on the underlying mechanism of this devastating disease. She hopes to apply her research to a future career in medicine, working in a laboratory setting.
Elicia says that working in the lab has proven helpful on many levels, including developing problem solving and critical thinking skills in a way that moves beyond textbooks and lectures.
“As a kinesthetic learner myself, I find that hands-on lab experiences also help solidify difficult theory and concepts, especially techniques like immunofluorescence,” she explains. “Being able to conduct these experiments and possessing the ability to troubleshoot are skills often sought by employers too. Having these research-related skills are key.”
She notes that Trent’s close-knit community has provided ample opportunity for building connections with other grad students and faculty members, which are crucial at the graduate level. She adds that the ready availability of resources such as the Biology Imaging Suite is also a plus, since it has helped her to pursue the areas of research she’s most interested in. Reflecting on her time in Trent’s Environmental and Life Sciences program, she says she’s particularly enjoyed the balance of course work to research.
“The program has helped me grow professionally and laid the foundation that will ease my transition to a work environment,” says Elicia. “It provides sufficient knowledge-based learning to foster confidence in laboratory techniques and encourages independence through hands-on research.”