Courteney Lai, Graduate Student (PhD), Terry Fox Laboratory, BC Cancer Agency Research Centre; and President, Graduate Student and Post Doctoral Society of the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre

My search for a research laboratory focused on studying diseases immediately led me to the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre (BCCRC) and its Terry Fox Laboratory. I soon learned that the latter was a multidisciplinary group primarily focused on understanding leukemia and advancing treatments. When I was offered a co-op work placement in this lab, I accepted without hesitation.

More specifically, I saw this as a great opportunity to learn more about stem cell biology and study cancer and leukemia. I first worked under the supervision of senior members of Dr. Keith Humphries’s lab, an established hematopoiesis researcher, which means he studies the processes that result in blood cell production. It was fascinating to be a part of his team.  I stayed on in the lab for nearly two more years as a research student until my graduation, studying the roles of two different cancer-causing genes in acute myeloid leukemia (AML, which Dr. Aly Karsan blogged about recently).

Through both of these opportunities I was exposed to many techniques used to study such diseases, and my contributions were acknowledged in a number of publications in scientific journals. I was even able to perform high-throughput drug screening of potential drugs for their effectiveness in reversing some of the effects of leukemic stem cells—this is the type of research that most excites me.

All of this experience opened my eyes to the breadth of topics that cancer research touches on and illuminated so many avenues to study stem cell biology for leukemia.

Working at the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre inspired me to continue my studies into graduate school.

Courteney