Since inception in 2009, BHCRI has awarded over $6.9M in stipend support to 207 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and medical residents pursuing cancer research careers within Atlantic Canada. CRTP provides trainees with opportunities to develop leadership skills, gain an appreciation of decision making processes such as peer review and contribute to the overall operation of BHCRI. The skills learned through CRTP provide the building blocks for success, regardless of career direction.
Meet some of our alumni to learn more about where they are now:
Nikitha Kendyala, CEO/Co-Founder
Nucliq Biologics Inc.
CRTP Trainee 2015 — 2016
I am originally from Hyderabad, India where I started my science career with a bachelor’s major in Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Chemistry and little did I know back then that I would be part of starting a biotechnology company largely based on bioinformatics analysis. My research career started with my Master’s thesis on therapeutic vaccine development for cervical cancer. This work experience and learnings encouraged me to pursue my Ph. D. in cancer research. I moved to Canada to pursue my Ph.D. with Dr. Sherri Christian at Memorial. During my Ph.D. I worked on two projects and was supported by CRTP for the Development of 3D co-culture system to study the epithelial and mesenchymal transition of breast cancer cells in presence of adipocytes. Being a CRTP trainee was a great opportunity to get the exposure to other research and researchers and understand the progress of the outside world relative to your lab research. The interactions during the conferences, seminar series and presentations helped me to assess my work and presentation abilities. I could also use the skill training program and develop a novel 3D co-culture methods to study the cells in 3D microenvironment at University of Guelph, Guelph. In addition, I had exposure to different lab culture and people from different backgrounds whom I still in contact with. Apart from scientific knowledge enhancement, networking and interacting through various opportunities provided by CRTP allowed me to understand and apply the cultures that involves the inclusion and diversity in our company, Nucliq Biologics Inc. I am thankful to Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute for providing the opportunity which helped me learn and understand various aspects of my research world.
Ming Han, Bioinformatician,
Princess Margaret Cancer Research Centre
CRTP Trainee 2014 — 2015
I had the wonderful opportunity of being a Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute CRTP trainee during my MSc training at the University of New Brunswick, Saint John's first cancer research laboratory, in collaboration with Saint John Regional Hospital. Being one of the first cancer researcher at UNB-SJ, having the support of BHCRI was invaluable. It not only provided me with generous financial support, including attending conferences in the United States, but also opportunities for networking with other bright and creative cancer researchers in Atlantic Canada. BHCRI also gave me the opportunity to share my work, get feedback and also learn from others. Since my time in BHCRI, I have pursued another MSc in biomedical informatics at Queen's University, Kingston. I initially worked in industry as a bioinformatician at Geneseeq Technologies Inc. in Toronto, Canada, where I enjoyed working with large-scale cancer genome, transcriptome, and immunome data. Currently I am a staff bioinformatician at Princess Margaret Cancer Research Centre in Toronto, continuing with cancer genomics, I am currently building epigenomic and single cell sequencing bioinformatics pipelines to assist other researchers in answering important questions in clinical cancer oncology. I would not be where I am today without the mentorship I received from the CRTP training program. It was truly a great experience filled with many great memories.
Ashley Hilchie, Director of Project Management
IMV, Dartmouth NS
CRTP Trainee 2016 — 2018
I’m originally from Clam Harbour, Nova Scotia. I began my science career as an undergraduate student in the laboratory of Dr. David Hoskin at Dalhousie University where I completed my Honours degree in Microbiology and Immunology. During this time, my interest in science and research grew like a seedling. As a result of this newfound interest, I started my graduate degree in the same laboratory. As a Masters student, I was initially funded by what was then referred to as the Dalhousie Cancer Research Program (DCRP). This funding provided me with the opportunity to present scientific findings to a greater audience, to hear updates from others, as well as countless other learning opportunities. While the remainder of my graduate work was funded by NSERC, it was during my graduate training that the BHCRI was launched. I vividly recall how historic it felt - everyone was excited to be part of this occasion. Following the completion of my PhD, I moved to Vancouver to study under the supervision of Dr. Robert Hancock. Here, I was supported by the CIHR as well as the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.
My life-long goal was to return to Nova Scotia to be close to my family. After 5 years in Vancouver, this was made possible as I received postdoctoral funding support from BHCRI. During this postdoc I worked under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Corcoran. While the opportunities provided to me as a DCRP trainee were similar in scope, it was very apparent that the capacity of the organization had changed considerably. Trainees from across Atlantic Canada were now supported by BHCRI, and we were all able to interact. The collaborative nature of the organization and its members is highly impactful and is not something I’ve found replicated elsewhere. During my tenure, I was provided with yet another unique opportunity, which was to coordinate the submission of a multi-institutional CFI grant that was ultimately awarded to Dalhousie University, as well as our collaborating institutions. This opportunity revealed what it is that I truly love doing – Project Management. I was hired by IMV Inc. as a Project Coordinator in 2018. After four years on the Project Management team, I am now the Director of Project Management at IMV. I’ve had the opportunity to start building my own team. We work with many functional groups within the company, as well as collaborating institutes, on a wide variety of projects of various complexity. The communication skills I acquired over years in research, including those opportunities provided by the CRTP and BHCRI, have made this a natural transition for me. I am grateful for the opportunities provided to me over more than a decade, and the invaluable relationships I’ve built as a result.
D. Craig Ayre
“I’m from Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador, and despite some globe-hopping in my career, I’ve done all my training (Undergraduate through to PhD) at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in St. John’s. My science degrees are in Biochemistry, but my training has really been in the cell biology of immune cells, with a particular interest in B cell leukemia. I was very fortunate to be supported by the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute through the Cancer Research Training Program (CRTP) during my doctoral studies at Memorial, and my post-doctoral fellowship with the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute in Moncton. One of the most important parts of effective research is establishing a reliable and inter-disciplinary network. None of us know it all or can be experts in everything. Our networks are what allow us to keep rigorously pushing the boundaries in science. While part of the CRTP, my research career started with a basic science research question on B cell survival, evolved into investigating the ways healthy and cancer cells communicate with their environments, and continued into how those messages might improve our ability to diagnose disease. The links CRTP helped me build opened doors for me to transition from an academic lab in Newfoundland, to a precision medicine specialist in Moncton, to being a professor of medicine in the Caribbean. Now I am a principal scientist in immunology for CellCarta in Montreal. My job is to be responsible for the overall conduct of immunology studies, from experimental design to formulating conclusions and recommendations. My studies range from assay development to regulated clinical trials. Beyond my scientific role, a significant part of my job is to be the communication link between our clients, and the various departments within CellCarta, which means I get to be involved in the science, business, and administrative aspects of our projects.”