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Student Profile: Parmissa Randhawa
Nuclear Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry doctoral student in the Faculty of Science
Currently, I am a third-year doctoral student in the Ramogida group in the Department of Chemistry. I completed my undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Victoria, where I was fortunate to be a part of Dr. McIndoe’s research group. Early on, I developed a passion for research, problem-solving and working in a collective team environment and these are some of the reasons why I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. I always wanted to find a field where I could help the community and have a real impact. Conducting my graduate studies in nuclear medicine at SFU and TRIUMF under the supervision of Dr. Caterina Ramogida, provided me an opportunity to contribute towards advancements in personalized medicine for cancer; a disease to which I can personally relate to as I lost my grandfather to cancer. I enjoy working in a field where my research could one day be used to impact the lives of many.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
Due to Dr. Caterina Ramogida’s vast experience in this niche area of research and her partnership with TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for nuclear and particle physics, SFU was always my first choice. With this unique collaboration between TRIUMF’s advanced infrastructure, SFU’s labs and BC Cancer, I am equipped with the necessary tools required to conduct detailed and complex research. With access to TRIUMF, the home of the largest particle accelerator in the world, access to radioactive metals for this project is endless.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
My research focuses on the development of new pharmaceuticals (radiopharmaceuticals) for cancer that incorporates a radioactive metal atom. These radioactive metal atoms can be used for either targeted treatment or imaging of cancer tissue depending on the decay properties of the metal. These radiopharmaceuticals use a targeting vector (i.e. biomolecule) which has a high affinity to sites that are specifically overexpressed on cancer cells. This allows us to directly kill the cancer cells with minimal or no damage to surrounding healthy tissue, unlike other treatment methods such as chemotherapy - a treatment method with plenty of adverse side effects due to its non-specific attack, harming both healthy and cancerous cells. The radioactive metal of these radiopharmaceuticals and the targeting vector are linked together by a claw-like molecule that binds tightly to radioactive metals. These claw-like molecules are a key component in a radiopharmaceutical and is what I am developing for novel metals to enable their use in further clinical applications.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
I enjoy the opportunities SFU has provided particularly, the opportunity to network with other researchers across the world which I believe is one of the most important parts of science and also helps with personal advancement. I was given the chance to take guest speakers (for seminars held at the university ) to lunch where I had the opportunity to make connections and ask questions to advance my knowledge. These opportunities to collaborate with universities around the world and to meet some of these collaborators at conferences leaving a lasting impact of positivity and sparks a desire to continue learning.
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.
Over my first year at SFU, I was fortunate in receiving the Graduate Dean's Entrance Scholarship, the BC Graduate Scholarship and a Graduate Fellowship. In my second year, I was awarded the BC Graduate Scholarship, a Graduate Fellowship and a minor travel and research award. Currently, in my third year, I received the Chemistry Alumni Graduate Scholarship. I was awarded these scholarships based on my academic and research accomplishments, as well as my proposed research. These awards provide financial stability and will support me throughout my Ph.D. studies.
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