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Student profile : Meet Sepideh Mikaeeli

May 27 2021 | Students

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« I am very optimistic that we will have a better understanding of the disease we are studying and that my research work will have a direct impact on patients’ lives.” Sepideh Mikaeeli, Ph.D. student.

For over half a century, the IRCM has contributed to the development and training of generations of researchers from all over the world. Every year, talented and dedicated future scientists trust the IRCM to help propel their careers. Among them, discover Sepideh Mikaeeli, a student in Experimental Medicine at McGill University who is conducting her Ph.D in Dr. Nabil Seidah’s laboratory. 

Sepideh, your passion for science goes far back. When did you catch the science bug?
Back in middle school already, my favourite class was natural sciences. I was always excited to play with chemical and biological ingredients and, every now and then, have the splendid pleasure of witnessing something truly new. This strong interest developed into a passion for cellular and molecular biology, and particularly genetics where I did my bachelor studies in Iran. My research experience brought me to discover the field of metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, and paved the road for me to continue my graduate studies. 

What brought you the IRCM?
In 2016, I attended the 2nd International Conference on Genetics in Tehran, Iran. That is when I was extremely fortunate to meet Dr. Nabil G. Seidah, who generously offered me the incredible opportunity of joining his laboratory to pursue my graduate studies at IRCM, in the experimental medicine field. At the time, I was doing my master’s at Master of experimental Medicine at McGill University.

It was a great privilege to be able to work with such an incredible mentor at a prestigious place like the IRCM.

How did the IRCM contribute to your development?
The IRCM provided me with an extraordinarily rich, conducive-to-research environment, where I could improve my research skills. In this immensely productive and flourishing atmosphere, my work culminated in the publication of different conference abstracts, as well as one published article in the highly respected FEBS journal. I was also given access to equipped labs and facilities for all kinds of studies including in vitro, in vivo, and clinical assays. This Institute has brought together great scientists from all over the world, many of whom are pioneers in their field of study. For students like me, this proximity is a great opportunity to communicate, collaborate and exchange ideas with peers and senior researchers.  I quickly felt as if it was the right place for me.

Tell us about your current research work 
I am enthusiastically continuing my Ph.D. studies and working on several interesting projects. I am studying two proteins that are implicated in the way the human body processes fat. My project aims to better understand how these proteins work, and how blocking their action could help treat metabolic diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a disease that touches 25% of the population in industrialized countries.

What is the next step for you?
So far, I have reached some important milestones including completing my coursework, and candidacy examination. I wish to publish my work in the next months in order to make my results accessible to others in my field. Academia is home to me, and I definitely wish to pursue a career there. Therefore, after defending my thesis, my next step will be a postdoctoral fellowship to broaden both my research skills and academic cultures. My long-term goal is to make a difference in people’s lives through my research. I enjoy helping others and wish to have a positive impact on the medical world. I am very optimistic that we will have a better understanding of the disease we are studying and that my research work will have a direct impact on the patients’ lives.

You’re engaged in the community in many ways. Why is it important to you?
I am a people person. And being involved in a community is a great way to connect with people, exchange ideas and grow on so many levels. Over my undergraduate studies, I did voluntary work for several research groups in the area of my research, spanned neuroscience and cancer, as well as metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. At the IRCM, I also had this chance to serve as a co-president of the IRCM Student Association, and get more involved in this amazing community, especially through the IRCM Foundation.

What is your secret to keep going?
I am a passionate person and I really think it is important to do things we like in order to remain happy. That is why, aside from science, I love outdoor sports, such as cycling and hiking. There is also a bit of an artist in me. In my spare time, I enjoy music, especially playing the piano, and painting. Other than that, I listen to a lot of learning podcasts and enjoy reading philosophy and psychology books. I believe these activities certainly contribute to making me a better scientist.