Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born in Beirut, Lebanon. My parents immigrated to Canada when I was only a few months old, where we settled in Ottawa.
What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
I have a long-standing interest in the elucidation of mechanisms that maintain cellular integrity and survival. During my PhD in the cancer field, I studied the adaptive mechanisms of tumor cells to an ischemic microenvironment. By the end of my PhD I was quite intrigued by the fact that neurons, unlike cancer cells, were not as resilient to survive under such ischemic conditions. My interest in cell death and the search for cell survival mechanisms for neurons during stroke led me to join the laboratory of Dr. Ruth Slack in pursuit of my postdoctoral studies.
What is the focus of your research?
My research has mainly focused on finding ways to help neurons survive during ischemia. Contrary to what I had previously believed, neurons do in fact have adaptive strategies that we can tap into in order to maintain their survival during stress conditions. I have found that mitochondria, which are the powerhouse of the cell but become dysfunctional during ischemic conditions, can be reconfigured to continue making energy even during low oxygen conditions. This allows neurons to strive during ischemic episodes and represents an important future therapeutic avenue for stroke recovery. In addition, my research has also focused on understanding the regulatory mechanisms that control neurogenesis to make new neurons following injury. I am currently exploring the role of mitochondria in the maintenance of neural stem cells and the formation of new neurons in the brain.
At what stage are you in your research, and what are your current future plans?
I am currently a senior postdoc with the aim of completing this stage of my training in the near future in order to become an independent principal investigator in stroke research.
How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
I think being part of the National Trainee Association has been very beneficial to me and others. This association has provided me with the opportunity to meet many other fellow stroke researchers and to establish collaborations with experts in the field. I have also been very fortunate to receive funding from the CPSR in order to pursue my training. In addition, I am excited about the chance to take part in the expanded mentorship program.
What other interests do you have?
In the little time I am away from the lab, I take on several extracurricular activities. I am the founder and coordinator of the Faculty of Medicine Summer Student Program (FMSSP). I am also the Co-president of the Postdoctoral Association at uOttawa’s Faculty of Medicine, where I have recently launched the new PDF Newsletter as the Chief-Editor. Apart from work, I have a passion for travelling and cooking.