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Grace Lee

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I obtained a BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of British Columbia in 2001. I carried out an undergraduate student-directed research during her senior academic year and was recognized as Dean of Science Ambassador.

After two years working in research industry, I went on to earn my M.Sc. with high distinction in Neuroscience from the University of Edinburgh in 2005. During my graduate studies, I focused on various aspects of neurodegenerative diseases including encephalitis by Semliki Forest Virus invasion of oligodendrocytes, and diseases causing peripheral myelinating neuronopathy. I was elected representative for my MSc class, acting as liaison between professors, course organizers, and her fellow students. I was a sponsored guest at the Federation of European Neuroscience Society conference 2004 in Lisbon, Portugal, and a member of the British Neuroscience Association. In 2005, I moved back to Canada and began developing my doctorate research program in Experimental Medicine at the University of British Columbia.

Currently, I am focusing my PhD on a mouse model of ALS-PDC (ALS-Parkinsonism dementia complex), produced by dietary exposure to the seeds of cycad, which has previously been demonstrated the Shaw lab. I have reproduced the experiment in a group of wild type CD1 mice, which showed significant loss of motor neurons with subtle behavioral deficits. In addition, the Shaw lab has obtained a pure synthesized BSSG compound, which is a sterol glucoside found in washed cycad seeds. The lab has shown that this sterol glucoside has neurotoxic effects when introduced to mice as part of their daily diet. I am interested in investigating the effects of BSSG on mice with specific genetic backgrounds, that is, mice either with mutations in SOD gene (G93A or G37R), or ALS2 knock out mice. During their daily exposure to BSSG (for approximately 10 weeks), mice will undergo rigorous behavioral analyses weekly to measure changes in gait, muscle strength, clasp reflex and mobility. The focus of her research will be on neuromuscular junction integrity during disease. Animal models of ALS are helpful in that they show loss of neuromuscular junction which leaves muscle fibres denervated, much like in patients. More importantly, one reason why there are no effective treatments for ALS is because of our ignorance about the sequence of cellular events during disease progression. Research designed to elucidate the timeline of events leading to loss of neuromuscular junction connections could give us a lead in designing interventions. I am interested in determining the site of initial defects; that is, whether pathology occurs first in the spinal cord or the neuromuscular junction in these mice. My research has been designed to study the interaction of environmental and genetic factors in neurodegenerative disease.

I believe there are many adjectives to describe pursuing research as a career. It can be rewarding when experiments turn out well and lead to publications, competitive when others are pursuing similar topics as you, demanding for healthy time management, like searching for a needle in a haystack when ideas are novel, disciplining when following a tight budget, and educating when keeping oneself updated in the field. I believe that the best things in life are achieved when overcoming great challenges. But above all, I think the greatest challenges that I will face in my career is putting family as first priority in the midst of research deadlines and competitions. The greatest achievement of any successful distinguished scientist is being able to make time for things that matter most.

Outside of work, my love is photography, fashion, and traveling. Needless to say, of all the cities in countries other than Canada where I have visited, I feel Vancouver is the most comfortable place to live. I dream of becoming a homeowner in Vancouver, and Iím saving my nickels to buy a beautiful house with a large contemporary kitchen, something that I could really looking forward to coming home to after my travels. I also enjoy singing, dancing (salsa and bachatta), and an active lifestyle.


BSc, MSc

PhD Student,

Neural Dynamics Research Group,

Vancouver General Hospital Research Pavilion,
Vancouver, BC