Thursday, July 30, 2015

Early Career Member Profile: Laura Braden

Laura Braden is a postdoctoral fellow at the Atlantic Veterinary College. Her current project is focused on elucidating molecular pathways and mechanisms for disease resistance in salmonids.

1. What is your current research/position?
Currently I am a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Mark Fast at the Atlantic Veterinary College in the Pathology and Microbiology Department. My research is focused on elucidating molecular pathways and mechanisms for disease resistance in salmonids.

2. What sparked your interest in aquatic animal health?
I had originally thought to pursue neuroscience or neurology. However, during my undergraduate degree at Vancouver Island University, I took a summer research position with Dr. Duane Barker, studying the potential for sea lice to act as vectors for certain aquatic pathogens. That work resulted in a larger strategic NSERC grant looking at the host-parasite relationship between sea lice and salmon, and I decided to be a part of that project for graduate school. This was the best decision I have ever made.

3. What has been your favorite fisheries-related job?
I don’t have a lot of employment experience in fisheries as I didn’t start working with salmon until graduate school. However, my favorite part of graduate school would definitely be working in the field. When it was time to run experiments, I had to visit fish farms and collect sea lice from Atlantic fish during harvest. Although that job wasn’t particularly glamorous, hitching a ride on a crew boat through the hundreds of islands on the east coast of Vancouver Island was amazing. I also had the opportunity to ride along with sockeye and chum test fisheries which was really interesting.  

4. How did you find your current position?
During the last year of my PhD. I began looking into potential post-doc positions. I had made several connections in Chile and Norway and was considering moving there to continue researching salmon. In the summer, Dr. Fast asked me to move to PEI and join his lab in Charlottetown and I accepted immediately. There was no doubt working with him is the best move for me. He is an emerging world-leader in fish parasitology/immunology and his lab is full of fabulous and creative people. I’m really excited to join the group.

5. What do you like about your current position?
The lab here at the AVC is involved in many different projects that I am able to be a part of. From sea lice and salmon interactions to studying arctic charr immunity to looking at drug responses in parasites to studying sturgeon – there are so many opportunities to research new and exciting topics. It is so awesome to be involved in such a spectrum of really cool projects.

6. What are your long-term professional goals (FHS or otherwise)?
I love doing research on such an important topic. Globally, aquaculture is emerging as one of the most important industries. However, truly sustainable aquaculture is impeded by our relative lack of knowledge with respect to host-parasite/pathogen interactions in teleosts. The reason I love my work so much is because I want to contribute to making aquaculture more sustainable. I definitely will continue in this field for a long time, and I hope to make significant advances in our understanding of disease resistance in fish. Ultimately, I would like to be involved in a more political manner, perhaps as consulting for policy regarding aquaculture in Canada.

7. Do you have any tips or advice for others that may be looking for a job soon?
From my perspective, it really is about two things: work ethic and a drive for success. Current supervisors and people you work with can only give references based on your productivity, and when it comes to applying for scholarships/awards or job positions, the only thing that will put you apart from your peers are your references. And especially in a small community such as fish health, it is all about who you know and how they know you.

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