Bachelor of Science (Hons.), Biology, 2012
The thought that I may find something that improves the prognosis for these young patients, is the best part of my work.
Ask Jaime Wertman about the things she likes best these days and she might mention working with zebrafish. The transparent ones. The ones in the Berman Lab at Dalhousie University. The ones that are described as “robust models” for studying cancer development.
“It’s pretty neat,” she says of the little fish common to home aquariums across the country. But what really makes her smile is the volunteer work she does at the IWK Health Centre, a children’s hospital in Halifax.
“I volunteer in the activity area,” she says. “So I am able to see some of the kids I might potentially help in the future.”
The help Jaime is talking about will come from her current research. Jaime is working on her PhD under her supervisor, and she says, her inspiration, Jason Berman, a pediatric oncologist and hematologist at the IWK. She is studying neuroblastoma a common pediatric cancer.
“Right now I am trying to find drugs that will help reduce side effects of common chemo-therapeutic drugs. The thought that I may find something that improves the prognosis for these young patients, is the best part of my work."
Jaime did not follow a traditional route to becoming a researcher. After graduating from high school – with a 7/7 grade in biology placing her in the top 96% of students worldwide – she enrolled at King’s in the Foundation Year Program (FYP). It was in her second year that Jaime took a course at Dalhousie University that changed her academic trajectory. It was an elective in cell biology, and it sparked Jaime’s interest in pursuing a career in health research. She went on to receive the Gold Medal in Biology from Dalhousie as an undergraduate and 18 months later completed her master’s degree. Along the way, Jaime contributed a chapter to a book, wrote an expert opinion article, and was first co-author on a research paper on prostate cancer metastasis.
Jaime has won other awards and bursaries for her academic work, notably the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation’s Colleen Elliot Award for excellence in research in 2014.
“On a professional level, receiving the award as a student makes you a more desirable candidate for lab positions,” explains Jaime. “On a personal level, it feels good to be recognized for something I’ve worked so hard for. It reaffirms that the long hours and more mundane parts of my work are all worth it.”
She does credit her time at King’s along with the hard work she talks about, for her success. She says the broad education she received during FYP has made her a better investigator.
“The Foundation Year helped me to think outside the box. It helped me to write clearly and use plain language. Both are important skills for researchers,” says Jaime.
And, she adds with a laugh, she kills at crosswords.
Photo Credit: Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation
Posted: Apr. 2016