Discovering her passion in the lab

Grad profile: Jillian Rourke, Faculty of Graduate Studies (Medicine)

- May 29, 2015

PhD grad Jillian Rourke. (Nick Pearce photo)
PhD grad Jillian Rourke. (Nick Pearce photo)

Looking back on her time at university, Jillian Rourke is proudest of having the courage to follow her own interests.

Jillian was always interested in science, metabolism and teaching, but it wasn’t until her fourth year working with SuperNOVA that she considered research and grad school. The student-led organization, based out of Dalhousie, promotes science, engineering, technology and math to youth.

“By taking the kids to all these great labs I saw how interactive and fun and passionate research is” explains Jillian, a native of Fredericton, N.B.

Grad school presented great new challenges. “I had to go beyond the facts and learn to find information, to be creative and perseverant and l had to learn how to fail.” She saw this as an important part of becoming a scientist: “Thinking about what went wrong and how you can approach the challenges differently makes every day interesting.”

But she didn’t do it alone. “I had an extremely supportive family, supervisor, and labmates and a very strong graduate student society that helped provide perspective.”  

Her current research examines a new type of hormone within fat tissue and the role it plays in obesity and type II diabetes. “The ultimate goal in the long term is that this research contributes to new ideas for new diabetes drugs,” she explains. “But, at the moment, it’s really asking the question more fundamentally of how these hormones work so we can figure out where the best place to target a drug would be.”

Up next, Jillian, who’s graduating with her Doctorate in Pharmacology, heads to the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Ontario for postdoctoral studies, where she’ll explore ways to improve the function of the pancreas during type II diabetes. Her ultimate goal? “To open up my own research lab, discover better diabetes treatments, and share my interest in science with future generations of scientists.”

This article is part of our series of profiles on the graduates of the Class of 2015. These profiles are also published in the Convocation Keepsake which is distributed at Convocation ceremonies. For more information (including live webcasts), visit the Convocation website.


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