I’m not sure I can adequately describe the size or scale of the impact in our lab over the last year+ but this pandemic was dishing things out left, right and centre. I feel like we are at a nexus of where the pandemic really delayed and harmed our research program. The personal impacts for many in my group have likewise been large and the largest goal was to try to keep all of us upright, in science, and keeping our heads above the water. In that regard, we need to reassess and redefine success over the last year. We have survived (!!) and this was largely from the resilience of our group, as much as I think that is an overused term. But we did get through this year together, pivoting efforts, helping each other, focusing on what we could do, taking things one step at a time. Now we are starting to see progress in projects again and productivity is starting to leap back up. That provides some space to look forward and plan for the future. Let’s start with some lab success stories. I’ll add in where we will be recruiting in the upcoming year in these projects. A detailed outline of our open positions in 2021-2022 will be posted, so please check them out and get in touch if you are interested in our research program.
When the pandemic shut down McMaster, yellow perch were spawning and we were about to launch into working with a brand new species. Waiting a full 12 months to restart was very hard but spring 2021 saw us undertaking the experiments we canceled the year before (and then some!) with very good outcomes. The lab (especially Shamaila Fraz) came roaring back with ambitious plans that were very fruitful and lots of experiences in testing new protocols to help move research plans forward. I am quite excited to see the data collection from our new samples and the analyses from the data already collected. It will shape the direction of our research into developmental plasticity and impacts of temperature on fish development. Much of our work this year focused on embryogenesis and immediate post-hatching periods while we work on the juvenile rearing stages. Perch are definitely a bit tough to rear post-hatching, compared to the other species we have worked on. No surprise but we certainly learned some things not to do to keep them happy. We are looking to recruit for this project in the upcoming months so we are ready to take on spring 2022 spawn.
While we graduated two graduate students from the lab in 2021, clear success stories, these were students who were done data collection prior to university shut down. Other graduate students in the lab faced much bigger challenges. With major lost experiments and one totally new project later, we forged a new plan to get back on track. I’m really excited about these new directions. Andrea Murillo has a freezer full of samples taken from our culture of the marine polychaete worm, Capitella teleta, and she is now extracting those samples to get geared up for gene expression and steroid hormone analyses. Shemar Williams has completed a suite of experiments in zebrafish embryos and on track to finish his MSc. Its great to see these project humming along. This also means it is time to think about new graduate students in 2022 interested in the function of cytochrome P450 enzymes using either zebrafish or Capitella as a primary species of interest.
Success, of course, has also been obvious in more traditional ways. We have been so happy to celebrate Oana Birceanu’s success this year as she starts her new role at Western’s Physiology and Pharmacology department as an Assistant Professor. I look forward to continued collaboration and engagement with her research group in the years to come.
** If you are interested in our lab, please check back under “Recruitment Opportunities” for more details in the upcoming days. I will be posting specific information there. The much needed refresh of the lab website is just beginning.