Harvard Internship to Expand Ph.D. Student’s Research on Neurodegenerative Disease
NSERC funding visit to world-renowned lab to gain new knowledge on Batten Disease
Environmental and Life Sciences Ph.D. student, William Kim is on a mission to gain new insight into his field of study, a journey that is taking him all the way to Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA.
With support from a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement, William will be deepening his knowledge of the fundamental cellular and developmental processes underlying Batten disease, a rare neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nervous system.
“The reason why I chose to pursue a research-focused graduate degree is to contribute new knowledge. I believe that research can help millions of people and I find that quite fulfilling to know that even the smallest knowledge contributions can have a huge impact,” says William, who is conducting research under the supervision of Trent Biology professor Dr. Robert Huber. “Through this internship, I will gain key skills in molecular biology, especially when it comes to human cell culture work, to further the research I am working on here at Trent.”
William’s hard work and dedication to his research has also earned him a $105,000 scholarship for his Ph.D. studies and a $17,500 NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship during his master’s degree.
Bringing new perspectives to Trent
Professor Huber believes that internships, such as this one, not only enhance the student experience but also bring new skills and perspectives back to the University, the Huber Lab, and Biology’s undergraduate programs in Biomedical Science and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.
“These internship opportunities allow students to experience things outside of the labs they work in here at Trent,” adds Prof. Huber. “William will be building his network and interacting with other researchers in the field, seeing how they carry out their research and gaining key technical, transferable skills that will bring new expertise to my lab and will benefit future students as well.”
William and Prof. Huber’s research is rooted in cell and molecular biology, and they are using the social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum, as a model to better understand Batten disease. Their work involves developing mutants of this organism for genes that are linked to the disease and examining how those mutations affect the behaviour of cells.
William’s internship supervisor at Harvard, Dr. Susan Cotman, is using human cell models to study the genes associated with the disease, and he looks forward to gaining new skills relating to human cell culture work.
Sharing knowledge in his future
William fell in love with research while completing his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Trent where he did a fourth-year thesis project in Prof. Huber’s lab. He hasn’t looked back since.
“I find Prof. Huber’s research really interesting and his flexibility in allowing graduate students to design their research projects really caught my attention,” says William, who hopes to follow in his mentor’s footsteps with a career in academia.
Learn more about the world-class researchers and research opportunities at Trent University.