"I'm a strong believer in the importance of research for it's own sake, but I was drawn to applying those principles of cellular neuroscience to a disease that directly impacts people."

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Student Profile: Troy Collins

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry PhD student in the Faculty of Science

February 11, 2021
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My interests in science tend to be pretty broad, which has led to some very cool opportunities working with honeybees at UBC, and more recently with naked mole-rats at the University of Toronto. I've been fascinated with neuroscience since a first year Psychology course I took years back, and that passion led to my Master's thesis on neurogenesis.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

Dr. Silverman's previous work on Alzheimer's Disease grabbed me as a compelling approach to exploring a clinically relevant disease in a "basic science" cellular model. I'm a strong believer in the importance of research for it's own sake, but I was drawn to applying those principles of cellular neuroscience to a disease that directly impacts people.

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

I'm characterizing the affects of a rare childhood onset neurodegenerative disease (called KAND) at the level of individual neurons cultured in a controlled environment. The Silverman lab is working with a nonprofit organization, KIF1A.org, to identify how these neuron mutations could lead to pathology in the human brain with the goal of working with clinicians to develop therapeutics.

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

I'm learning a broad array of skills crucial for any cellular/molecular neuroscientist, and I'm applying those skills to improve the lives of people with KAND. There's going to be a lot of trial and error ahead, a lot of experimentation. But, having a tangible outcome of people my work might one day help, I think that will keep me motivated to work hard.

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 have received the Graduate Fellowship and the Graduate Entrance Scholarship. This has made my transition from Ontario much easier and enabled to me to get set up and diving straight into my new research topic.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

I've had a very positive experience in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry program. The instructors of my courses have been insightful, experienced and all around effective teachers. The faculty on my committee are encouraging have opened their proverbial doors to me, I know I can go to any of them for guidance. Dr. Silverman, my supervisor, has been both a supportive and patient mentor. I'm pretty excited to see what discoveries we'll make during my program here!

Contact Troy: tfc@sfu.ca