Announcement: 2021/22 OGGS Recipients: Jack Webb & Virginia Wolfe

This year's Obstetrics and Gynecology Graduate Research Scholarship (OGGS) winners are: Jack Webb and Virginia Wolfe.

Introducing Jack Webb

Jack Webb, OGGS 2021 RecipientMy name is Jack Webb, and I am honoured to be this year’s recipient of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Graduate Scholarship. I recently completed my undergraduate degree here at Western, majoring in Pathology and Pharmacology, and I am now starting my first year as a Master’s candidate in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology supervised by Dr. Trevor Shepherd. This research opportunity will help me develop critical scientific skills and experience required for a career in academia while making important novel contributions to ovarian cancer research to positively impact the lives of ovarian cancer patients.

Treatment strategies for metastatic epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) have remained largely unchanged for the last 20 years. A major goal for The Mary & John Knight Translational Ovarian Cancer Research Unit (TOCRU) is to identify and exploit new therapeutic vulnerabilities to augment current treatments and improve outcomes. To this end, Dr. Shepherd’s team in the TOCRU has identified autophagy, a highly-conserved intracellular recycling system that is activated during starvation-like conditions is crucial for EOC cell survival during metastasis. My studies will continue this important area of research by testing the therapeutic potential of inhibiting unc51-like kinase 1 (ULK1), a crucial enzyme that controls autophagy initiation, on EOC tumour growth and metastasis. I plan to use a combination of genetic and pharmacologic approaches to block ULK1 function in three-dimensional cell culture and mouse models of late-stage disease.

Introducing Virginia Wolfe

Virginia Wolfe, OGGS 2021 RecipientMy name is Virginia Wolfe. I am a first-year master’s student in the Physiology and Pharmacology graduate program at Western University. In the labs of Dr. Andrew Watson and Dr. Dean Betts, I am studying the role of the p66Shc adaptor protein in the development of pre-implantation embryos.

Growing up working on a dairy farm, I first became interested in reproductive biology while watching bovine oocyte flushing and embryo transfers. In the final year of my undergraduate biology degree at McMaster University, I studied angiogenesis in early placental development.

Currently, I am working with Dr. Betts and Dr. Watson to investigate mechanisms of diabetic embryopathy through a mouse embryo model. P66Shc is a protein that facilitates the production of harmful reactive oxygen species, and increased expression has been detected in embryos exposed to hyperglycemia. I aim to manipulate levels of this protein in embryos exposed to hyperglycemic conditions in vitro. I will investigate mechanistic pathways and embryo transfer success in pseudo-pregnant diabetic mice. It is our hope that these results may increase our knowledge and development for the future of IVF techniques, in particular, to assist those who experience infertility due to diabetic embryopathy.