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Student Profile: Brooklyn Fedoretz-Maxwell

Chemistry Master's student in the Faculty of Science

December 14, 2020
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I am a second-year master's student in the Warren group in the Department of Chemistry. I completed my undergraduate degree in Scotland, U.K. in forensic investigation at Glasgow Caledonian University. I had always loved chemistry since high school, but being introduced to biochemistry during my undergraduate degree really opened my eyes to this vast and amazing topic. The intricacies between biology and chemistry are truly fascinating to me, and to have the potential for research in this field to potentially combat a number of diseases really makes it a topic close to my heart as I have always had a passion for helping others.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I chose to come to SFU for Dr. Warren's research involving electron transfer reactions. These electron transfer reactions unify many energy transduction processes in chemistry and biochemistry. One of the biggest draws to me to SFU and Dr. Warren's group was the ability to use protein model systems to study the proteins' microenvironments, and how these environments affect key redox reactions that happen within these models. In studying these environments in models first, later research has the possibility to be extended to work with human proteins, and to be involved in research of this importance was an opportunity I could not pass up.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

Metalloproteins are comprised of proteins which have a metal ion cofactor – a “helper” molecule whose presence is essential for the protein’s activity. The primary focus of my project involves a sub-category of metalloproteins called iron-sulfur cluster proteins – proteins that have an iron metal cofactor coordinated to sulfur atoms. In humans, these iron-sulfur cluster proteins have a range of functions; from DNA damage repair, to stabilization of the protein, to the movement of electrons (i.e. electron transfer). A lack or malfunction of these proteins can result in a wide range of diseases, mainly affecting the brain. However, human proteins are complex, making them difficult to work with in a laboratory setting. Alternatively, bacterial proteins can be expressed, manipulated, and studied with greater ease. Therefore, the use of rubredoxin – a stable, primitive bacterial iron-sulfur cluster protein – is more advantageous to study these proteins. Thus, my project will take advantage of and utilize rubredoxin to develop a fundamental understanding of this primitive protein’s microenvironment, with the implication to use this understanding in future research corresponding to human iron-sulfur cluster proteins.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

I enjoy that there are so many chances to learn and collaborate with people within SFU and within my research field. The people I have worked with during my time at SFU have all been great, and we really push each other to strive to perform at our best each and every day.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

Upon entering SFU I was awarded the Dean's Graduate Fellowship and BC Graduate Scholarship (BCGS). These awards were extremely helpful in my first year, as it allowed me to spend more time in the lab focused on research, and less time worrying about finances and the costs associated with the long hours of research. I also was awarded the NSERC Canadian Graduate Scholarship at the master's level (CGS-M). Awards like this are such an honour to receive as the competition is all across Canada, and I know how talented and deserving so many of the applicants are. I truly am thankful to have been awarded with a CGS-M this year, as this final year can again be heavily focused on my research as my worries on finances and affordability have been alleviated.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

There are highs and lows that can happen every day in the lab. Sometimes yo can have week after week where experiments will be going well and smoothly, only to have one tiny thing make everything come screeching to a halt. This can be extremely frustrating at times. For this reason, make sure that whatever you decide to do, is something you love doing. Having something that you love doing, makes these frustrating days a lot easier to get through!

Contact Brooklyn: bfedoret@sfu.ca