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Dr. Prusak is Full Professor in the Department of Chemistry, and teaches courses in biochemistry, organic chemistry, and immunology. She received her Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Technical University, Poland and her doctorate in Biochemistry at the Polish Academy of Sciences. She worked as Research Associate at the Biochemical Laboratory of the Polish Academy of Sciences from 1979 to 1986 and at the Biotechnology Research Institute in Montreal from 1987 to 1990. Her research interest is microbial physiology and involves the study of enzymes and metabolic pathways in which quinoprotein enzymes participate in the utilization and production of microbial primary and secondary metabolites.
Dr. Prusak is currently working on two research projects. The first involves the study of metabolic pathways of acetone degradation and has the potential to help eliminate environmental contaminants. Her second project, in collaboration with her colleague Dr. Mihai Scarlete, researches the application of miniature optical sensors called silicon oxynitride waveguides to monitor biochemical reactions, and could lead to development of a new generation of small biosensors.
Dr. Prusak aims to identify soil bacteria able to degrade acetone and to characterize their metabolic pathways. Very few microorganisms are known to use acetone as a carbon source, and we don’t clearly understand how bacteria metabolize acetone. Yet biodegradation of acetone is very important because although acetone is volatile and dissipates into the environment instead of accumulating in a given area, it still remains toxic. Understanding of acetone degradation could contribute to elimination of important environmental contaminants. Characterization of the acetone-utilizing enzyme is also important to take the full advantage of the metabolic process.
Dr. Prusak and Dr. Mihai Scarlete are collaborating to apply Dr. Scarlete’s waveguide microsystems to monitor biochemical reactions. Many organic compounds absorb light only in the ultra-violet region, and traditional waveguides do not perform well below 400 nanometres. Dr. Scarlete’s use of silicon oxynitrides, on the other hand, allows for the creation of a transparent waveguide applicable at a molecular level, and which therefore has potential applications in biochemical analysis. Polymer-Assisted Chemical Vapour Deposition is used to produce the waveguides and they are tested to determine their use in monitoring enzyme-catalyzed reactions or binding of biochemical molecules.
Dr. Stroeher is a Full Professor in the Biology Department at Bishop’s University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology at Montana State University and completed her graduate work at the University of Washington, studying the role of Hox genes in early development of Drosophila melanogaster. She continued her research development as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Calgary, studying the genetic regulation of early cell lineage decisions in Caenorhabditis elegans, and subsequently worked as a Research Associate at the University of Alberta, examining the molecular mechanisms of metabolic changes associated with abiotic stress in plants.
Dr. Stroeher’s current research focuses on the potential reintroduction of the North American cougar into Eastern Canada. For years unconfirmed sightings of cougars have been reported in several regions of Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes, yet no physical evidence has been collected on these animals. More important, it is not known whether these sighted cougars represent members of the North American subspecies or escapees from private owners (which tend to be members of South American subspecies). If they represent the former, this suggests a natural reintroduction or expansion of existing populations of cougars in Quebec. It is critical to identify and confirm any introduction or increase of large carnivore populations in a region because of the potential ramifications for the wilderness ecosystem and the endogenous animal population.
The objective of Dr. Stroeher’s current project is to conduct DNA analysis of field samples collected from scent poles set out in several locations across Gaspé, the Eastern Townships, and Mont Tremblant Park. Dr. Stroeher has teamed up with Dr. Marc Gauthier of Envirotel 3000 to gather and analyse hair samples collected once a month from 19 poles covered with Velcro and scented with cougar urine. The rationale was that if the pole was placed in a cougar’s home range, the indigenous cat would mark over the foreign scent and leave tufts of hair attached to the Velcro. This hair would then be used to attempt to isolate and analyse the DNA. The potential impact of these findings is significant. To date the Eastern North American cougar has been categorized as “data deficient” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, affording it no provincial or federal protection. If Dr. Stroeher’s research is able to demonstrate that, in fact, the North American cougar is re-establishing in Eastern Canada, this will place these animals in the “endangered” category of the Western North American cougar, affording it the federal and international protection conveyed to all endangered species.
Dr. Marc Gauthier, Envirotel 3000, Inc., Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Senate Research Committee, Bishop’s University
Dr. Stroeher’s research involves undergraduate students from Bishop’s University.
Stroeher, V.L. 2000. Molecular identification of cougars (Puma concolor) found in Quebec. Journal of Eastern Townships Studies 17:71-73.