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Fresh Faces

She's a bright young scientist with a background in molecular and medical genetics. He's a promising young researcher investigating the structure and function of membrane proteins.

Rachel Wevrick and Joe Casey met as undergraduates at Queen's, were married, completed their PhDs at the University of Toronto, and went on to postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford University.

Now they're both at the U of A, having found positions in the Faculty of Medicine, and they're glad to be here. "We both feel strongly Canadian and wanted to come back, and the positions here are a custom fit for us," says Casey, who is fascinated by the ability of proteins to control the flow of materials and information across the cell's plasma membrane. He investigated aspects of this phenomenon in the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford; at Alberta he will work in the Department of Physiology. "The problem is of interest in both physiology and biochemistry — there's overlap," he says.

At Stanford, Wevrick was part of the Human Genetics Training Program and worked on the isolation of the genes involved in Prader-Willi Syndrome (a rare birth disorder seriously affecting both mental and physical development). She is the first faculty member appointed to the new Department of Medical Genetics, having arrived even prior to its chair, Diane Cox.

Casey and Wevrick arrived in Alberta early this year. It was the last day of January and at the Edmonton International Airport the thermometer approached 40 degrees below. "But notably we didn't turn around and go back," says Casey. "We didn't have a return ticket," quips Wevrick.

The only place the couple had experienced such intense cold before was on top of a mountain. Both are outdoor enthusiasts — they met as members of the outdoor club at Queen's — and were attracted to Alberta by the proximity to mountains.

Professionally, the support being provided by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research was a drawing card. "I hope people in this province appreciate just how much the AHFMR has done for Alberta in building a strong medical research community," says Casey.

The generous support they have received from the AHFMR has been only a part of the warm reception they have received, says the couple. "People here in the Faculty of Medicine have gone out of their way to be genuinely helpful."

Published Autumn 1996.

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