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Student Profile: Miguel Prieto
Health Sciences doctoral student in the Faculty of Health Sciences
I am fascinated with studying infectious diseases in humans; thus, I have worked on many aspects of biomedical research over the last decade. Initially, I trained as a Medical Doctor and began my career as a clinical coordinator and research assistant investigating neglected tropical infections (leishmaniasis, malaria, and tuberculosis). Then, I moved to Canada to pursue graduate training and completed a Master of Science in Experimental Medicine at UBC. There, I explored the infectious complications of patients living with cystic fibrosis, particularly those affected by opportunistic mycobacteria (part of the genus that causes tuberculosis). Currently, I am exploring how to apply genomics (analysis of the genetic code) of microbes in public health settings. My current goal is to acquire complementary skills (public health, epidemiology, and bioinformatics) to minimize the impact of infectious diseases on human populations. Outside of work, I enjoy riding my bicycle and reading fiction literature.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
I want to work in public health implementing new policies to minimize the burden of human infectious diseases. After finishing my Master of Science, I wanted to complement my skillset by learning to apply genomics analyses to infectious disease research. My supervisor, Dr. William Hsiao, is an expert in using microbial genomics data in public health settings and was my primary motivation to join SFU. He and his team have provided an ideal environment to learn, succeed and create a professional network.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
Many people around the globe suffer from chronic respiratory diseases that limit their quality of life. In my thesis, I am studying a respiratory condition called bronchiectasis that doesn't have any available treatment and causes difficulty breathing, cough, and increased pulmonary secretions. Some of these patients present frequent "exacerbations" (increases in symptoms) that require antibiotic treatment and hospitalization. These episodes are the major contributor to high healthcare costs and poor quality of life; however, we don't know why some patients develop these episodes while others don't. We believe that, like in other pulmonary diseases, the microbes living inside the lung contribute to the worsening of symptoms. Thus, I will analyze this relationship using respiratory samples and patient data. Also, I want to find a way for Medical Doctors to accurately predict which patients are more likely to have these complications.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
I really enjoy the environment of my lab (The Centre for Infectious Disease Genomics and One Health - CIDGOH). Our diverse team includes experts in multiple disciplines such as data analysis, informatics infrastructure, and ontology development. Furthermore, our lab culture promotes collaboration, and everyone is happy to share their expertise and provide technical support. Finally, coming out of a research program during the pandemic, I am enjoying the opportunities to network and interact with other trainees/peers in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.
I was recently awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Graduate Scholarships Doctoral Award as one of the best-ranked applicants among the pre-selected candidates. I also received a Graduate Fellowship from the Faculty of Health Sciences in 2022. I am grateful and honored to receive this support; these awards will help me focus on my studies and alleviate the financial burdens of graduate training.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?
In the Faculty of Health Sciences, we study diverse topics related to human health. Here you can find people working in fields as broad as indigenous health, city planning, healthcare economics, and the structural biology of viruses. Thus, it is an ideal place for those interested in improving health from any point of view and provides a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary research.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?
If you want to know more about our group and research, I invite you to look at https://cidgoh.ca/
Contact Miguel: email@example.com