I am a PhD student in the department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in Dr. Stephen Renaud’s lab. Our lab studies the development of the placenta in the context of obstetric complications. The placenta is essential for human pregnancy, and maldevelopment can lead to severe pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, miscarriage, and fetal growth restriction. Our lab looks at regulation of placental development through epigenetics, transcription factors, and immune regulation.he placenta in the context of obstetric complications. The placenta is essential foPhD student in the department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in Dr. Stephen Renaud’s lab. Our lab studies th
I graduated from Trent University with an Honour’s specialization degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. After volunteering in several labs, I discovered a passion for research and chose to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Western Ontario in the Anatomy and Cell Biology department, of which I then transferred to a PhD.
My current research focuses on the role of the maternal immune system during healthy pregnancies as well as during states of maternal inflammation. Proper development of the placenta is essential for development of the baby, and impaired development of the placenta can lead to obstetric complications for a mother, and increased risks of mortalities and morbidities for her baby. The mechanisms of placental development are not entirely understood, thus I am looking at the role of maternal immune cells and how they influence and regulate this process.
To research this, we have a novel transgenic rat strain that is deficient in Natural Killer cells, so I can further evaluate the role of these cells during pregnancy. We measure placental development, placental blood flow, as well as fetal development and the maternal immune response during normal and adverse pregnancy conditions. We test placental blood flow using Doppler Ultrasound Waveform Microscopy, where we can measure changes in blood volume velocities through the placenta as a result of impairments in placental development. We can also analyze fetal development through hypoxia measurements and organ weights. In addition, our collaborators are working on neuronal maldevelopment and behavioural/cognitive impairments as a result of aberrant immune activation during pregnancies.
What I do outside grad school:
Outside of the lab, I coach youth sports and volunteer with several organizations and run an annual fundraising event in my hometown. I am also the student faculty representative within our department student council, where I try to ensure that ACB grad students are advocated for on multiple levels.
Why I like grad school:
Graduate school provides a unique learning experience that I can tailor to my own interests. I’m lucky enough to have a supervisor that encourages me to look into my curiosities and research interesting possibilities within my project. I am fortunate to be a part of a lab and a department that are highly collaborative and constantly expand the horizons of my research, allowing me to increase my knowledge in many research areas. In my past three years I have seen my research, writing, presentation, and networking skills exponentially increase, and I’m excited to see how much further I can grow as an academic. Graduate school is a great opportunity for students that are interested in the research field and the desire to continuously grow as individuals.