BCDRN Trainee Spotlight: Heather Denroche, PhD
Our BCDRN trainee profile this summer is Heather Denroche, PhD. Heather describes herself as “Passionate diabetes researcher, mom, Vancouverite”. Heather recently completed her Post Doctoral Fellowship and has moved into an exciting new role with an emerging biopharma company. Read about her academic journey in our trainee profile.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in South Surrey/White Rock, a short drive from Vancouver.
What did you study for your undergraduate degree and where did you go to school before UBC?
I did the first two years of my BSc at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and completed my BSc in Biochemistry at UBC. My Honours thesis project in George Mackie’s lab, investigating 3’UTR stability elements of a bacterial mRNA transcript, solidified my love for research.
What got you interested in diabetes research?
I was drawn to research as a way to make a positive impact. In my last year of undergrad, two of my friends developed diabetes, which opened my eyes to some of the struggles that people living with diabetes face every day. I did a summer research program in Tim Kieffer’s lab under the supervision of Scott Covey. I was enthralled by the fast-paced environment, the diversity of research projects and the collaborative and inspiring people in the diabetes research community. I also thought ob/ob mice were really cute.
How far along are you in your degree and what do you hope to achieve in 2022 with your research?
I’ve just completed my postdoctoral fellowship in Bruce Verchere’s lab and have started a new role in preclinical development at an emerging biopharma company, Integrated Nanotherapeutics. My research goals for 2022 are to publish my postdoctoral research, immerse myself in my new role, and develop some of our lead candidate therapeutics. I am so grateful for the incredible colleagues and mentors I’ve had in the BCDRN community and very excited for this next step.
Any advice/words of wisdom to share with other trainees about starting grad school or on how you found ways to connect with colleagues?
Be open to the many paths your research journey can take; it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you – and your life – will change along the way. My career path changed over the course of my academic training, and I was able to steer my own course by following the research projects that inspired me, and with the support and guidance from some key mentors and colleagues along the way. It’s also important to take care of yourself. Failure is such an integral part of research that it can be easy to lose sight of how much you’ve learned, grown and accomplished. Reflecting on this periodically can help put things in perspective.
Any funny stories to share with the trainee community? (optional)
My very first experiment in an academic lab was designing primers to run a PCR with the goal to amplify and subsequently in vitro transcribe bacterial cold shock protein A. Of course, looking back, the PCR was simple and very straightforward, but I was so proud and excited that my PCR had worked, that I printed a picture of the gel and put it on my fridge. I still have the picture to this day.
The past two years have been a pandemic and travel has been restricted. Now that travel is allowed, where do you want to go and why?
I love travelling and will follow wherever the next interesting conference takes me – somewhere in Asia or Europe would be top of my list. I’m also excited to take my family on vacation. Our children are young and we have not done much travelling with them yet. We will do some local exploring around BC this summer and hope to take them to Mexico in the winter.