My research is focused on the field of pharmacogenomics. Through this research I use genomic and bioinformatic analyses to identify genetic variants that contribute to the development of severe adverse drug reactions caused by cancer treatments. The identification of these variants allows for the ability to predict which patients are at risk of experiencing adverse drug reactions before therapy begins so that alternate treatment strategies can be considered in these patients. This research ultimately aims to guide the development of individualized treatments that offer maximum benefit and minimal harm.
Why did you decide to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC? Did you consider other opportunities?
During my graduate studies I attended several pharmacogenomics meetings where I met researchers from the Canadian Pharmacogenomics Network for Drug Safety. The large datasets available through this internationally recognized network were something that I was really interested in working with. As the national research hub of this network is located at UBC, one of the world’s leading universities, I applied to join the group, and was fortunate enough to be accepted.
What advice do you have for new postdoctoral fellows?
I can highly recommend joining the UBC research community. Taking advantage of the world class resources available at the BC Children’s Research Hospital Institute and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences has opened up many opportunities for me. Outside of my research, joining the Postdoctoral Fellows Association (blogs.ubc.ca/ubcpda/) made the transition from South Africa to the opposite side of the globe a lot smoother and introduced me to other postdocs who have become lifelong friends. In terms of making the most of your postdoc: Collaborate and build connections with people outside of your immediate research environment. Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can from the people that surround you. Join committees and expose yourself to diverse aspects of research. Don’t be discouraged by inevitable rejections or failures – they can lead to new discoveries and opportunities.
What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy spending time outdoors, particularly in new and remote places. Beautiful British Columbia is the ideal place to do this.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your postdoctoral fellowship?
Critical thinking, problem solving, and discovery are the most challenging and exciting aspects of research. Although the obstacles that you encounter along the way can be frustrating, solving these problems have ultimately been the most rewarding aspect of my postdoc.
What does receiving this award mean for your career?
I am honoured to have received this award, which will play an important role in creating awareness about the research that I am performing. This achievement was made possible through collaborating with, and receiving mentorship from, many talented researchers at UBC and across Canada, with specific mention to my supervisor Dr. Colin Ross. These opportunities will help to move my research, which aims to make medications both safer and more effective, into new and exciting areas.
What do you think the next step in your career will be?
I am currently applying for faculty positions in Canada and am really excited about the prospect of building my own research group. It is a great time to be performing research in the field of pharmacogenomics and precision medicine, where opportunities to translate findings into the clinic have become a reality. I look forward to what the future holds.