"SFU offered a variety of MBB courses that allowed me to identify my true interests from many research areas- to the extent in which I did an honours research project which evolved to graduate research."

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Student Profile: Chris Bonar

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry master's student in the Faculty of Science

March 05, 2021
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I am a MSc student who was born in the Lower Mainland. When free, I enjoy playing (and watching) sports including football, ice hockey, as well as playing music with my alto saxophone. I will also try to visit the gym.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I came to SFU because of its great reputation and location. As an undergrad, I committed early as an MBB major. It was easy to stay engaged because SFU offered a variety of MBB courses that allowed me to identify my true interests from many research areas- to the extent in which I did an honours research project which evolved to graduate research. Location-wise, it’s also nice to stay home, where I grew up with many friends that I stay in-touch with, today.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

My research focuses on a regulatory bacterial nucleic acid, which interacts with an important protein that facilitates housekeeping gene expression. In low nutrient conditions, the nucleic acid binds to the protein to suppress such gene expression, but releases in high nutrient conditions. The structural mechanism underlying this release process is importantly a therapeutic target for suppressing pathogenic bacterial growth. Understanding the mechanism can be accomplished via cell imaging and structural analysis.

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

I enjoy the research independence given by my superior, Dr. Peter Unrau. Having the freedom allows me to take my research to unexpected places and challenges. I also enjoy meeting other scientists from other fields. I have been fortunate to be a featured speaker at the 20th annual international RiboClub conference to talk about my research in front of several Nobel laurates, including Dr. Andrew Fire, and other renowned scientists like Dr. Victor Ambros (both of whom I’ve met in-person).

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.

Yes- I was fortunate to win the NSERC 2020 Canada Graduate Scholarships Master’s (CGS M) competition, which evaluates competitors based on grades, research, and attributes outside of academia. This guarantees me research funding from Summer 2020 until the end of this semester. Through this funding, I can maximize my experimental output to answer many research questions and carry that momentum onward. Funny story: When I was an undergrad applying for an NSERC USRA, I sent Dr. Unrau a very short email five days before the deadline asking if he was hiring new research students. Never would I have thought that I would end up his graduate student.

Contact Chris: cbonar@sfu.ca

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