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Science experiences

Michelle Tonkin - Biochemistry and Microbiology

Graduate student Michelle Tonkin (PhD, Biochemistry and Microbiology) is working towards developing therapeutics to treat diseases such as malaria.

Michelle says, “The most exciting thing about my experience at UVic is the potential for my research project. I’m working on a project aimed at developing invasion inhibitory drugs against the Apicomplexan parasites, which include Plasmodium and Toxoplasma, the etiological agents of malaria and toxoplasmosis, respectively. It is both challenging and exhilarating to be working on the cutting edge of this research area - hard-earned results that make a significant contribution to the field are definitely motivating!”

Publication in world’s leading research journal

Michelle was recently published in Science, the world's leading journal of original scientific research. She explains, "In collaboration with a group in France, we recently published a paper in Science: Host cell invasion by Apicomplexan parasites: insights from the co-structure of AMA1 with a RON2 peptide. The paper was chosen as the top biochemistry paper in that issue of Science."

"We also have a patent related to the development of drugs and vaccines from this work. The Science manuscript was my fourth publication from the Boulanger lab, and fifth overall (graduate work: Science, Protein Science, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Current Opinion in Structural Biology; undergraduate work: Journal of Organometallic Chemistry)."

Prestigious awards

Michelle has achieved numerous scholarships and awards and plans on pursuing post doctorate fellow appointments once she has earned her degree. She was awarded the top prize out of more than 250 of the top 5% of health research graduate students across Canada. She received the Lindau Award and Gold Award of Excellence (Top 10 Poster) at the Canadian Student Health Research Forum in Winnipeg (2011). The CSHRF is a gathering of the top five per cent of health research graduate students in Canada (approximately 250 participants).

The Lindau Award recognized the research showing the most novelty and potential and was presented by the president of CIHR. The award includes nomination to attend the 2014 Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, and selection as the Lindau Lecturer for the 2015 CSHRF

Funding

UVic graduate students are competitive for top tier NSERC research scholarships. Michelle received a top tier NSERC (Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship - CGSD3) for her doctoral level research. She also was the recipient of the Julie Payette NSERC Research Scholarship, the most prestigious master’s level NSERC Scholarship.

Keys to success

When asked what she feels is the key to her ongoing success at UVic, Michelle says, “I believe it is critical to pick a supervisor you can work well with and a project that is both captivating and challenging. Scientific research often feels like a roller coaster, so having a reliable supervisor and a project in which you are personally invested is key to a successful graduate program”. When not in the lab, Michelle can be found touring the landscape on her motorbike.

Learn about biochemistry and microbiology at UVic.


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Science Matters

Science Matters

Fall 2014


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