Jan 23, 2024

Humans of LMP: Michelle Bendeck

Programs: Graduate, Research: Cardiovascular, Inclusive community
Michelle Bendeck

Each month we speak to a member of the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology community and find out more about them as part of an initiative from our Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee (WIDE).

Visit the Humans of LMP page to read more stories and nominate yourself or others to be featured.

This month we feature researcher Dr. Michelle Bendeck who started in LMP as a PhD candidate and became Vice Chair Research.

How long have you been at LMP and what does your role involve?

I have been a professor in LMP for over 20 years.

I run a research lab studying vascular cell biology, supervising undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoc research projects.

I coordinate an undergraduate course in cardiovascular pathobiology.

I was Vice Chair of Research in the department for 8 years.

But before all of that, I was a PhD student in the Department of Pathology before it merged to become LMP. So my history is long, and I know where all the secrets are buried!

What led you to pursue your current career path?  

I was inspired to become a researcher during my first year as a summer undergrad at Western U. I liked the challenge of doing difficult things, asking questions, and discovering things that no one else knows. I was hooked, and knew right away I wanted to be a scientist. 

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of? 

I was among the early researchers in the cardiovascular field to be interested in how the extracellular matrix is organized and functions. I have persisted through my career in understanding the matrix in the cardiovascular system, how it signals biological responses in cells, and how it contributes to the structure and strength of tissues.

What was the best career advice you ever received?  

This was from my PhD supervisor, the late Dr Lowell Langille. "Aim High. Look for the best place that will have you, and work with the people you truly enjoy. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions".

What has been an important learning experience in your life? 

Be persistent, follow-through and finish. There is no such thing as a perfect experiment, and there is no such thing as a definitive final conclusion. Usually the best result is one that leads to another question. It took me a while to learn that “perfect is the enemy of done”.

Who is an influential person in your life and why?

My dad. Though not university educated, he was bright, curious about science and the natural world. He had high expectations of me, and always pushed me to do better.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I love architecture. When walking in the city I love examining and photographing buildings.

What activities do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

My hobbies include downhill skiing and road cycling.

What is your favourite album, film and novel? 

Album: Pearl Jam, Ten

Movie: Star Wars

Hard to pick a favourite book, there are so many I have loved. But my favourite author is Annie Proulx. 

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Steve Jobs, and Frank Lloyd Wright. I like the relationship that both achieved between function and absolute beauty in design. I would also like to see first hand how Jobs intuited what we would all want in a computer. 

Where/what is your favourite place? 

Prince Edward County, Big Sur. In Big Sur the relationship between the mountains and the land is so dramatic and the combination of sea spray with the smell of the trees is intoxicating. We have a place in Prince Edward County and I love to go there to cycle, kayak and write (usually research grants). 

If you were stuck on a deserted island but had all your basic needs taken care of (i.e. food and water), what two items would you bring with you and why?

A kayak and all my books. The kayak is for exercise, hopefully the water is calm. I can’t imagine being without books. 

Hear from one of Dr. Bendeck's students

From lab to patent: an innovative approach to support heart attack recovery
Dr. Jonah Burke-Kleinman looking into a microscope