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Leigh Wicki-Stordeur

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I’ve lived on Vancouver Island, close to Victoria, for most of my life. I did my undergrad at UVic in Biochemistry, and stayed there for my PhD in Neuroscience in Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne’s lab.

Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A:  I became interested in stroke research while in Dr. Swayne’s lab. The particular ion channel protein we were studying, Pannexin 1, had been implicated in the neuronal response to stroke. Early in my graduate studies, we had also shown that Pannexin 1 regulated the behaviours of healthy neural precursor cells. These special cells can give rise to newborn, fully functional neurons within the adult brain, and therefore represent a potential target for brain repair following injuries such as stroke. I therefore became interested in understanding whether Pannexin 1 might affect the response of these particular cells to stroke.

Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: My graduate work in cellular and molecular neuroscience focused on the role of the Pannexin 1 ion channel in neural precursor cells. I examined how the expression and activity of this channel affected the behaviour of these cells (proliferation, migration, differentiation) under both healthy and stroke conditions. I also looked into some of the specific molecular mechanisms underlying this Pannexin 1-dependent regulation of neural precursor cells.

Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your future plans?
A: I just successfully defended my PhD thesis in December, and will be moving to a post-doctoral position in April in Dr. Brian MacVicar’s lab at the University of British Columbia. Here I will be continuing my research into the importance of Pannexin 1 in the brain. I hope to one day hold a principal investigator position and be able to conduct independent research.

Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: The CPSR Trainee Association allows trainees of diverse backgrounds to meet, and become familiar with multiple aspects of basic, clinical, and rehabilitation stroke research. I personally participated in a SPIN course a few years ago at one of the CPSR meetings, and was excited to have the chance to be exposed to the clinical and rehabilitation side of things (coming from the basic biomedical side myself).

Q: What other interests do you have?
A: I spend a lot of my free time both playing and coaching soccer. I currently play for a Division 1  womens’ team in Victoria, and coach a girls’ team in Cowichan. I also enjoy hiking and skiing when I can, as well as finding time for my husband, friends, and family.