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Student's passion for research to flourish this summer

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on July 28, 2015 in News

By: Casey Spears

“Research should be a lifelong goal; to forever be exploring and learning.” Those are the wise words of Alyson Smith, an undergraduate student at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture. Her obvious passion for research is why Alyson will be working with Dr. Vasantha Rupasinghe this summer. 

Alyson came to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick with one goal in mind, to complete the prerequisites required to apply to the College of Pharmacy. Since beginning at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture, Alyson’s passion for research has only continued to grow and flourish.

Alyson is exploring the possible anti-cancer properties of phytochemicals isolated from plant species common to Canada, specifically Atlantic Canada. Alyson says, “There seems to be a research bottleneck surrounding properties of cold climate plants” which she views as a “distinct opportunity to contribute to the larger body of knowledge by investigating anti-cancer properties of Canadian plants.”

“When I thought about where my research could take me, what doors it might open up, what things I would be able to do and learn, I figured there was nothing to lose by applying to work with Dr. Rupasinghe and I really had everything to gain,” Alyson explains. 

Through this summer research experience Alyson has been able to gain research work experience in the area of human health that also complements her studies.

“The biggest project I am digging into involves working with brain cancer. The specific type of brain cancer is called glioblastoma multiforme, which is one of the worst brain tumours. It works fast, it is super aggressive, hard to remove and can become resistant to the drugs meant to treat it,” she explains. “I’m going to bring in a newly created compound that’s been synthesized from food molecules in order to see how effective it is against the brain tumor and hopefully see if this new compound can sensitize the tumour cells to current drug treatments, making getting rid of the tumour even more effective.” 

Seeing progress and working in a field she’s inspired by can make all the difference. Every aspect of her attitude towards research, field work and pharmacy reiterates why Alyson is a valuable researcher at the Faculty of Agriculture.

“Knowing that I have the opportunity to contribute to a larger body of knowledge that is working on the most incredible advances is amazing. It is rewarding to know that even if I do not discover something earth-shattering, I could very well lay the foundation for someone else,” she added.

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