Vanessa Oliveira is in her element as a Biology student. It’s the perfect science for her as she is passionate about the human body’s mechanisms and complexities. She is determined to make the most of her time at Bishop’s, which is why she jumped at the chance to apply for the B.E.S.T. Project Fund.
“I’m in awe of everything I learn in my Biology program,” says Vanessa. “I was granted the opportunity to do research in my first year under the supervision of Dr. Estelle Chamoux, who throughout my years at Bishop’s became a mentor to me.
It’s thanks to her encouragement that I decided to apply for my internship.”
In fact Vanessa won’t have to travel very far to gain a unique experiential learning opportunity. She will be working with the research group of Pr. Mannix Auger-Messier at the Centre de Recherche du Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Sherbrooke (CRCHUS) studying fundamental signaling mechanisms that could offer new avenues to treat cardiovascular disease.
“I’ll be working with a new mouse model that was genetically engineered in Japan,” she explains. “The scientists there modified a particular gene of interest in the mice so that we can turn it off at will in specific cells. We’re going to use those mice to shut down the expression of that gene only in the heart and to determine afterward how it responds to stress. Amazingly, I’ll perform microsurgery on these tiny mice in order to help fighting heart diseases.”
“While we’re conducting these experiments, the mouse will be in an incredible ultrasound machine that allows us to see his heart in 4D,” she continues. “This high-tech echography apparatus will allow us to see the heart contracting and the blood flowing. It’s capable of doing amazing calculations!”
Vanessa and her colleagues at the CRCHUS will be looking to determine the role of the studied protein on the heart’s function and if it can be used as a treatment to tackle cardiac diseases. “If this phase is successful, I already dream about the path that could possibly be traced on the long run to human trials on heart disease and stroke patients.”
The 21-year-old is particularly thrilled about concluding her internship with a trip to Anaheim, California, to attend a conference organized by the American Heart Association.
“I’m really excited to see the inner workings of my field, do some networking, and become acquainted with the studies that are published in cardiovascular publications.”
For Vanessa, this opportunity is beyond what she could have imagined when she applied to Bishop’s from her hometown in Brazil. “For me to have a chance to simply be at Bishop’s and to have the experiences I need to become a scientist granted to me by the B.E.S.T. ProjectFund, I have no words to describe it!”
The self-described “shameless go-getter” has heartfelt advice for future B.E.S.T. hopefuls. “You have to know what you want and you can’t be ashamed or scared to ask for it. Nobody is going to hand you the opportunity of your life. You have to fight for it, and it’s fun fighting for it!”