Katherine MacDonald

UBC graduate student Katherine MacDonald
Optimizing growth conditions for suppressive immune cells isolated from human thymus tissue
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

During the final year of my undergraduate degree, I was exposed to the field of regenerative medicine. I was excited by the prospect of using cellular therapy to treat the cause, rather than symptoms of disease. I decided to pursue a graduate degree to gain skills to help translate research discoveries in this field to clinical use.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I was first exposed to the type of work that is done by the Piret Lab by a former PhD student (Corinne Hoseli), who became a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University while I was completing my undergraduate degree. I grew up in BC, so was happy to return to the province to attend UBC.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

I was attracted to the Biomedical Engineering program at UBC for the opportunity to pursue multi-disciplinary research. In my research project, I am co-supervised by a bioprocess engineer and an immunologist.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The best part about life in Vancouver is living so close to both the mountains and the ocean.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

For my project, I am developing protocols to isolate, grow and cryopreserve regulatory T cells isolated from the thymus. We’re currently in the process of transferring these protocols to a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) facility at the University of Alberta, which will use these protocols to generate data to support a clinical trial application. I’m excited to see the work that I’ve done move from the research lab to the GMP facility and eventually be used in a clinical trial.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I worked in two research labs during my undergraduate degree. In these placements, I became comfortable working in a lab, gained technical skills, and developed skills in critical thinking and troubleshooting.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I enjoy spending time outdoors. On the weekends I am usually outside hiking in the summer or skiing/snowshoeing in the winter.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Make sure to have work-life balance. There are always more experiments to do or papers to read, but you need to make some time for yourself as well.


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