Humans of LMP: Quinn Bonafiglia
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).
This month we feature PhD candidate Quinn Bonafiglia who received The Avrum Gottlieb Award for Curriculum Development and Teaching Excellence in Training at our recent Annual Celebration of Excellence.
Visit the Humans of LMP page to read more stories and nominate yourself or others to be featured.
What are you studying at LMP and why are you interested in studying it?
I am a 5th year PhD student in Dr. Michelle Bendeck’s lab. My project is centered on characterizing a new mouse model of pulmonary hypertension and exploring how a collagen-binding receptor regulates lung development.
I have also helped establish a comprehensive protocol for ultrasound imaging of the right side of the heart in mice.
Identifying new molecules or signaling pathways that contribute to disease development is one of the most exciting aspects of research. Currently, we do not completely understand the mechanisms underlying pulmonary hypertension nor late-stage lung development. As such, I have been very interested in testing how our mouse model may provide novel insights into the initiation and progression of these pathological conditions.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at LMP?
I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with many LMP faculty and trainees throughout my time at U of T. However, to pick an experience outside of the academic realm, one experience I will cherish was my time as a member of LMP’s graduate student council (CLAMPS).
I was first elected as the Junior representative in the Recreation and Wellness branch, and later became the Vice-President. This was a great experience to meet new individuals within the LMP community as a first-year student, and I am grateful to have helped execute several initiatives that fostered an inclusive and social environment for LMP graduate students. My only regret is that my volleyball skills were not at their best and we couldn’t earn a victory for the students in the traditional ‘Faculty vs. Students Volleyball Game’.
What was the best career advice you ever received?
A past graduate student from my lab once told me to re-consider the adage ‘work smart, not hard’, and instead, ‘work hard’. This is especially true for early PhD students carrying out a basic science project; when you working in the realm of unknowns and discoveries, it is helpful to attempt many routes of exploration. Research carries an inevitable degree of surprise, but pursuing a surprising result often leads to more interesting and fruitful discoveries than what may have been originally planned.
What has been an important learning experience in your life?
One lesson I’ve learnt in recent years is to be organized and manage time efficiently. It is easy to get lost in the minutia of research and forget to consider long-term planning, including timelines for manuscript preparation, thesis writing, job hunting, etc. Planning for the near future to ensure that bigger-picture goals are being accomplished is challenging, but an important lesson to keep in mind – especially when dealt with large and unexpected interruptions (like pandemics) to everyday life.
Who is an influential person in your life and why?
My Grandma has had a great influence in my life, particularly in how I handle adversities and challenges. She was someone who valued life to its fullest, and by extension, knew to ‘never sweat the small stuff’. With each new difficulty I am dealt, I always try to incorporate her optimistic outlook and ability to retain a grander perspective.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I have an identical twin brother. If we’ve met before and I don’t say hi or wave when we pass each other on the street, now you know why!
What activities do you enjoy doing outside of work and studies?
I’m a big sports fan and love to play golf, baseball, and go for runs. I’m also very into music and enjoy playing the piano and guitar. I’ve recently developed a keen interest in cooking and make a mean cacio e pepe.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Favourite album is a tough one, but I’ll go with Reflektor by Arcade Fire. I’m also a big movie buff, and although it’s a very common answer, you can’t beat The Godfather. For novel, I’ll go with Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
I’d love to sit down with some of my favourite musicians and hear about their writing processes and stories behind some of their famous songs. An ideal table would include Paul McCartney, David Bryne, Jimmy Page, George Harrison, and Feist. If I can include deceased musicians, I’d definitely add David Bowie and Aretha Franklin.
Where is your favourite place?
My favourite place that I’ve been to is Rome. The city has a ton to offer and seems like a place that would never get tiring to revisit. Not to mention, I could happily eat pizza and pasta for the rest of my life.
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?
I’d bring an iPod with and load it with as many songs as I could fit, and a Labrador retriever puppy. I think it would get quite lonely on a deserted island, but music and a dog will certainly keep my spirits up.