Scientist in the Spotlight. Stanley Z.

February is a month all about the heart. So, in celebration I am bringing another feature in the segment I love; Scientist in the Spotlight. And this month I’m bringing a quick fire feature with an awesome researcher from Toronto, Canada. So, without further a do, I am thrilled to introduce you to Stanley Z.

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Stanley immigrated to Canada when he was nine years old from Guangzhou, China without knowing a single word of English. But this passionate, funny and quick-witted researcher is now in his third year of PhD trying to understand how genetic changes, big or small, can alter the three dimensional looping of the human genome to drive cancer development and progression! So let’s get to know him a little bit better.

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What have you been up to in the lab most recently?

Stanley: Lately I’ve been doing a lot of CRISPR/Cas9 based experiments; a technique used for gene editing, to hopefully wrap up one of my projects in the next six months.

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Why did you choose to pursue a career in science?

Stanley: Because I have always been curious about the natural world even from my earliest memory of science which was magnets and magnetism in grade 3 science class, and of course Bill Nye the Science Guy! There were many questions that I wanted answered as a kid – and later did with Google’s help – but as I grew older, I realised there is a limit to what Google knows. Given my background in health and disease as an undergraduate, I wanted to go beyond what is already known. Additionally, given my field of research and where I;m situated, to be able to conduct cutting edge cancer research to impact future patient care is truly inspiring and keeps me going every single day in and out of the lab.

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You’re in your third year of PhD study now, so you must have some survival tips to pass onto the grad students of the future?

Stanley: I do not necessarily think grad school is a shark tank that requires survival. Grad school should be something you enjoy and feel passionate about. While it is tough and a challenging journey, you get so much out of it – have a vision, don’t be near-sighted! I think the biggest piece of advice I can give though – other than working hard – and I learnt it from my mentor is to keep your emotions in check; do not let your emotions ride with the success and failures of your experiments. Be even keel! In addition to keeping you emotions in check, I learned creativity is a very important skill to have in research. If you have a crazy idea, if it follows scientific rational, test it. Creativity is often an underappreciated factor in scientific research.

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‘Have a vision, don’t be

near-sighted!’

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What is your most memorable moment from your PhD so far?

Stanley: Most memorable moment to date would be receiving the very positive reviews for my review manuscript – now published in Cancer Discovery! This was about 6 months after starting my graduate studies. It gave me a sense that I belong – that my work was appreciated, and others will read it and learn from it!

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What other interests do you have outside the lab?

Stanley: I follow a ton of sports! Huge fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Lions and Manchester United. If I wasn’t in science, I would either be in medical school or in sports analytics and management.

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Is science communication important to you and why?

Stanley: Science communication is important to me because I feel there is a disconnect between the academy and the general public. It is important that the general public understand that scientists 1) are not a closed off group of people, and 2) their work is of the highest quality. The lack of science communication seriously detriments society, and the anti-vaccine and ‘climate change isn’t real’ movements are perfect examples of that.

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Where after your PhD then?

Stanley: That is something I have been thinking about alot. I’m not stressed out about it however – least not yet. I truly think that if I keep on moving in the direction of doing things I enjoy and am passionate about daily, I will naturally get to where I want to and should be.

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And finally, where in the world should I be visiting for my next trip?

Stanley: Tough question! I want to go everywhere and I expect to travel alot. One place that is on the top of my list however is Vienna. I love classical music and I have relatives there. I haven’t been to many places in the world yet – working on it! – but I would recommend you all to visit Toronto in your lifetime. It’s a very vibrant city with great diversity!

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Huge thank you to Stanley for taking the time to answer my quick fire questions about your research and life in grad school. You can follow Stanley on Twitter and Instagram where he is often sharing really cool scientific papers that you can take a look at if you’re interested.

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Science love.

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