From undergraduate to postgraduate: Severa Bunda, Postdoctoral Fellow, describes her diverse research experience with LMP

Friday, November 2, 2012
Severa Bunda
Severa Bunda, LMP Postdoctoral Fellow

My scientific journey in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology (LMP) began during my fourth year of undergraduate studies. During this time I was in the process of completing an HBSc in Cell Biology at the University of Toronto and was attending an advanced cell biology course. A portion of this course was dedicated to explain how the extracellular matrix and the cell communicate and influence each other: work that was primarily conducted by a LMP Professor Aleksander Hinek at the Hospital for Sick Children. This intrigued my scientific curiosity as I thought a matrix to be an inert structure that holds cells in place. Furthermore, the idea that my research might one day be presented to thousands of eager undergraduate students certainly intrigued me. I contacted Prof. Hinek and immediately applied to the LMP's Summer Student Research Program.

Within the first few weeks I was exposed to an exciting research environment. I had a chance to meet many students in Prof. Hinek’s laboratory as well as other LMP students on the floor and everyone was excited to be part of such a dynamic department that offered a vast number of research interests covering all medical areas. Upon completion of the Summer Student Research Program, I undertook the fourth year LMP research course, which created an exceptionally smooth transition into my MSc within the same department. During my MSc, I primarily worked on dermal connective tissue and the influence of various toxins on the integrity of such tissue. My committee members were invaluable: one was a phenomenal scientist in toxicology and the other was a clinician-scientist in the area of pathology. It is their diverse expertise that strengthened my project and exposed me to various techniques that were not available in our laboratory. These factors were instrumental for the completion of my project.

At the same time, during the weekly LMP departmental meetings, I had the chance not only to present my work and obtain feedback but also to learn what other students and their supervisors were investigating. I found that regardless of their research interest, the major focus of all LMP scientists was to uncover the mechanism of a disease process. During these meetings I was exposed to and developed an interest in cardiovascular research, more specifically the influence of the extracellular matrix on the heart function following cardiac stress. Upon the completion of my MSc, I began a new PhD project in Prof. Hinek’s laboratory that examined the influence of elasticity versus stiff collagenous scar on myocardial function post infarction.

Based upon my remarkable graduate experience I decided to expand my scientific horizons and gain more experience in cancer research. I especially wanted to pursue this area of research following the personal loss of my grandmother to cancer. I contacted LMP Professor Michael Ohh, a vibrant, young and enthusiastic scientist who was receptive to new ideas and genuinely excited to find a cure for cancer. I am currently in my third year of postdoctoral studies in Prof. Ohh’s laboratory. It is here I am able to reach my full scientific potential.

Although my graduate and now postdoctoral experience has been in the same department, my research interests range from connective tissue biology to cardiovascular research to molecular oncology. I also currently hold a CIHR fellowship in Prof. Ohh’s laboratory. I would say that this is the perfect example of the remarkable diversity within the department of LMP that makes this department exceptional and unique.

I am confident that many years of training within the department of LMP will equip me with all the tools I need to begin an exciting independent research career following the completion of my postdoctoral studies.