May 2018 Trainee Spotlight
Supervisors: Diane B. Boivin and Nicolas Cermakian
Degree: Postdoctoral Fellow
Year of Study: Year 2
Why did you choose to come to the Douglas?
Towards the end of my PhD, I had a clear picture in my mind of the next: I wanted to continue doing research in the field of circadian rhythms. More precisely, it was my goal to use powerful -omics methods that have become available in the past decades to study physiological processes on a molecular level in humans. However, I knew there weren’t many opportunities out there that would suit these interests and I was not sure where to start looking. By chance, I found out that Dr. Diane B. Boivin and Dr. Nicolas Cermakian were looking for a postdoc to work on their collaborative project on the effect of circadian disruption on the human circadian transcriptome. Having experience with human circadian research, I was a good fit for the project. Excited to be granted such a unique opportunity, I packed my bags, jumped across the Atlantic Ocean (figuratively speaking) and started my postdoctoral research at the Douglas.
What did you do before coming to the Douglas?
I did my PhD at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. My research focused on the optimization of pharmacological treatments by taking into account 24-hour rhythms in physiological processes that are involved in the absorption, metabolism, excretion, and effects of drugs.
Sell your research:
Circadian disruption is thought to contribute to the long-term adverse health effects that have been associated to night shift work, such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, sleep problems, and various types of cancer. The goal of my research is to investigate the consequences of acute circadian disruption in humans on a molecular level using transcriptomic (and other omics) approaches. This research will enhance the understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying circadian disruption and will be instrumental in advancing the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of shift work-related health concerns.
What excites you most about your research?
Since the early days of my undergraduate degree, I have been fascinated by the notion that our body contains an internal circadian clock that anticipates the daily changes in our environment through an ingenious feedback loop of genes and molecules that are present in virtually every cells. On a daily basis, I have the privilege to study this phenomenon and uncover new ways in which the circadian clock influences our physiology on a molecular level. In general, the field of circadian biology is a very multidisciplinary field that has many untapped therapeutic opportunities and I am very motivated to continue to contribute to this research area in order to exploit these opportunities.
If you could go back in time and give your “younger self” advice, what would you do differently?
I have always – somewhat naively – followed my curiosity and I have always trusted that I would find my way to a next great opportunity. So far, this strategy has worked out for me, but looking back it might have been useful to have a plan B (and a plan C) in case things hadn’t gone so smoothly.
Please share any additional experiences or advice that you’d like to share with prospective Douglas trainees.
It’s easy to get swallowed up by your research, but don’t forget to take a step back every once in a while to reflect on your accomplishment and dream about your future.