Jessica Palermo, Pharmacology and Toxicology

My name is Jessica Palermo and I am a 4th year Life Science student specializing in Pharmacology. I am currently working in Dr. Ana C. Andreazza’s laboratory in the department of Pharmacology and Toxicology to complete my Project Course in Pharmacology (PCL472Y1).

Working under the supervision of Dr. Ana C. Andreazza and Dr. Vanessa F. Gonçalves from the Centre for Addition and Mental Health, my research aims to understand the genetics of bipolar disorder through pathway analysis. The pathway of bipolar disorder is influenced by energy metabolism and mitochondrial inflammation, as research has shown that protein levels in these pathways are dysregulated in bipolar disorder patients. Therefore if mitochondrial energy metabolism and inflammatory genes are dysregulated in bipolar Disorder, we can aim to use genetics to identify those at risk in the population.

I decided to study pharmacology as I was initially interested in learning how drugs have their effect in the body. Over these few years, I have gained an appreciation of how the study of pharmacology incorporates many other fields in the Life Sciences such as: molecular biology, biochemisty, anatomy, and physiology. I had the pleasure of being enrolled in Dr. Andreazza’s Experimental Approaches in Drug Discovery (PCL345H1) class, and was immediately fascinated to learn about her research on analyzing mitochondrial dysfunction in bipolar disorder. When deciding on supervisors to apply to for my project course, she was at the top of my list, and I was thrilled when she offered me a position.

I began this research experience in May of this year. My previous experience with research included Life Science laboratory courses in biology and chemistry, in addition to an upper year pharmacology laboratory course. Working with Dr. Andreazza and Dr. Gonçalves has been such an incredible experience for me, as the passion they have for their research is so inspiring. They are such patient and caring individuals, and their guidance throughout this project has allowed me to be comfortable to challenge myself. The members of Dr. Andreazza’s lab are also very welcoming and have contributed to making this a positive learning experience. For my future career goals, I hope to combine my love of science with my passion for inspiring and working with children as a teacher. I hope to channel the passion that Dr. Andreazza and Dr. Gonçalves have to encourage my own students to appreciate learning and to always challenge themselves.

Quote: Everything happens for a reason – although what happens may not be what you planned, the result ends up being better than you could have wished for.

Advice: A piece of advice I would give to fellow students would be to build connections with both professors and students in class. Just a simple hello or asking questions can help you get to know the professor and for the professor to get to know you better. Taking smaller classes that encourage participation may be out of your comfort zone, but the learning experiences and connections you can gain with the professor and fellow students is extraordinary.