Dec 14, 2020

A summer of success: LMP student recognised for her PhD work

Programs: Postgraduate, Research: Brain & Neuroscience

Dr Kristiana Xhima, who recently completed her PhD in Dr Isabelle Aubert’s lab at Sunnybrook Research Institute, represented the Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, at the Canadian Student Health Research Forum (CSHRF) and received awards for her research.

Dr. Xhima’s research looks at using focused ultrasound to noninvasively increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier to deliver neurotrophic factors that promote neuronal survival and plasticity in the Alzheimer’s brain.

The CSHRF is a week-long conference specifically for PhD students involved in a broad range of health research. It is an opportunity to showcase their research and make important connections with graduate students and faculty researchers across Canada.

One of a handful of students nominated by the Department to attend, she was disappointed when the conference was cancelled due to the pandemic. Fortunately, the conference was rescheduled and took place virtually, two weeks after she successfully defended her thesis and completed her PhD.

“The timing was perfect,” explained Dr. Xhima. ”I had just defended my PhD, so to be able to present all the knowledge I had accumulated over five years was a great feeling, like a full story coming together. You can get so involved in the technical details during your PhD, that you lose focus of the big picture, so it was fantastic to be able to present it all at that moment.”

As part of the conference, she attended the Gairdner Symposium to hear Gairdner Laureates talk about their research and attend mentorship and networking sessions with them. “Hearing from, and speaking to, some of the world’s best biomedical and global health researchers was inspiring and definitely something I won’t forget,” says Xhima.

Her research poster, not only received a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Gold Award, being in the top 15 of approximately 200 entries, but was also short listed for a special judging session by the Gairdner laureates.

“It was phenomenal to explain my research to the laureates and listen to their perspective,” Xhima explains, “and then to be listed in the top five was amazing – a true honour and great way to finish my PhD!”

Despite the shift to an online format, it was a highly valuable experience for Dr Xhima.

“I truly enjoyed learning about other disciplines in biomedical research and meeting passionate young scientists across Canada. I would like to thank Dr. Isabelle Aubert, my PhD supervisor, the LMP community and the conference organizers for this wonderful opportunity. It was a real honour to be able to represent LMP at the conference this year.”

Dr. Aubert shared how grateful and proud she is to have worked with Xhima over the years. “Kristi is amazing, personally and professionally. She always takes her science to the next level; in a superb and serious way, and with a smile and positive attitude. In the middle of the pandemic, she completed her thesis, successfully defended, submitted several manuscripts and brilliantly represented LMP at the CSHRF. Sending you huge Congratulations and Thank You, Kristi!”.

Find out more

A recent study from Dr. Xhima in Science Advances: Focused ultrasound delivery of a selective TrkA agonist rescues cholinergic function in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

A summary of her research: In the first preclinical study of its kind, researchers use focused ultrasound to deliver treatment to help boost health of brain cells affected by Alzheimer’s, on the Sunnybrook Research Institute website.

Dr. Sonam Dubey, also past-graduate student of the Aubert Laboratory, published another study in field of regenerative therapeutics delivered to the brain using focused ultrasound this December in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)