Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Christina Ji

Student name: Christina Ji

Please confirm your LMP studies – I believe you did the Specialist Program (undergraduate) and an MSc?
I completed the LMP undergraduate specialist program in June 2019, and my Master’s with the LMP graduate program from September 2019 September 2021.

Who was your MSc Supervisor?
My MSc supervisor was Dr. Christopher McCulloch.

What research did you conduct as part of your MSc? Please explain why you chose this field and any highlights.
My MSc thesis centred around an ion channel TRPV4 (you might recognize the founding member of this group of molecules, TRPV1, from the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine) and its role in extracellular matrix remodeling. Abnormal matrix remodeling alters connective tissue properties and underlies the pathogenesis of fibrosis, a topic which I developed interests in during my undergraduate, and which is a pathology that is prevalent, progressive, and lacking effective treatment. In my research, I examine matrix structures within connective tissues as well as cellular behaviours of major matrix-producing cells called fibroblasts. I hope to advance our knowledge in how matrix remodeling is regulated, and how TRPV4 affects these regulatory pathways.

Did you do any research as part of your undergrad e.g. the SURE summer program? Please describe what you did and with which faculty. (if any)
My undergraduate research was supervised by Dr. Jennifer Mitchell at the Department of CSB. I studied transcriptional regulation of an important pluripotency gene Sox2 in mouse embryonic stem cells, aided by the CRISPR genome editing technology. My research was supported by an NSERC USRA. My results were incorporated into a manuscript (submitted; in review).

Please list any scholarship or awards you received while at LMP and any papers published (if any)
During my undergrad, I was very honoured to receive the Third-year Specialist Pathobiology Award and GLSE Undergraduate Student Leadership Award. During my graduate study, I was grateful for receiving support from the CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship - Master’s and University of Toronto Fellowship, and for receiving recognition at LMPRC 2021 with a Poster Presentation Excellence Award. I also published a review article relevant to my Master’s research (FEBS J. 2021. doi: 10.1111/febs.15665).

Why did you want to study science?
I am drawn to the continual cycle of learning and knowledge advancement during scientific pursuits. I am greatly interested in the mechanisms regulating human health and disease. Through learning the materials in lectures, I gained knowledge on both what we know and what we don’t know about different pathologies, from which I then discovered my research interests that motivated my graduate work.

Why did you join LMP for your undergraduate studies?
I developed a deep interest in pathophysiology during my early undergrad years. At the time, I was also living in an on-campus residence where I met friends who were already in the LMP specialist program as well as who were considering the program. We went to this program fair where Dr. Douglas Templeton gave a comprehensive overview of the curriculum. I was drawn by the breadth of topics in the curriculum and the prospect of a close undergrad community, so I applied and was fortunate to join the LMP specialist program, where I advanced my knowledge in a wide range of diseases, discovered my research interest leading to my graduate study, and made close friends in this journey.

What were your best memories from LMP?
Being able to attend LMP classes, conferences, social events with friends, meeting with mentors, getting to know people from different years are some moments that I miss the most. I also had the pleasure of designing the LMPSU apparel logo one year (which I still proudly wear from time to time).

What were the most important lessons you learned while in LMP?
LMP harbours an incredibly diverse community and therefore, there are many talks, seminars, programs, initiatives and other events that I found very interesting and wished that I had the time to all attend and/or participate in. As a result, one lesson I learned was to manage my priorities and time, which has been very important throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies. I was fortunate to have part of my graduate classes in-person, and by navigating through challenges presented by pandemic disruptions, I gained a deep appreciation of the people around me, who supported me and whom I supported. This sense of support and community helped me to grow as a scientist and also as a person.

What are you doing now and do you have any ambitions/plans for the future in your career or research?
I am continuing my research on TRPV4 in extracellular matrix remodeling, possibly with considerations in additional pathological contexts. I hope to pursue further research training and an education in medicine, where I wish to connect clinical insights and basic science perspectives to inform each other.