Shubham Soni

Introduce yourself... 

I'm a third-year PhD student in the Department of Pediatrics. I was born in India and raised in Langley, BC. Growing up, I played a lot of sports and loved to be active, so much so that I decided to come to play tennis for UAlberta's Varsity Team for a couple of years. Ultimately, learning more about health and disease is what drew my interest to health sciences and is why I chose to dedicate my time towards building our knowledge of these topics.

What are you researching and what do you hope comes of your research?

I’m researching the role of ketones, small molecules made by the liver, in health and disease. I’m also looking at how we may be able to use ketones to treat various diseases, such as sepsis. Though I primarily joined the Dyck Lab to study heart disease, I am now also leading projects looking at ketones in sepsis and pregnancy as well. I hope that my work can help us better understand the many roles of ketones and test if they can be used for therapeutic purposes. I also hope to be a future leader in bringing this therapy to patients in the clinic.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research to the public?

The 3MT is an incredibly important event because its sole purpose is to simplify (often) complicated research into a message that is easy to understand, all while providing a big picture and a realistic context of my work. Being able to clearly explain one’s research is a crucial skill for scientists that allows us to better connect with a general audience (like donors or the government). I will continue practicing this skill because it’s engaging and enjoyable to speak to people about my work in everyday terms.

What inspires you to do research?

I believe what underlies my desire to do research is my curiosity about the human body and my goal to help cure disease. Throughout all the injuries I had while being an active kid, I would always wonder: “Why did this injury occur” and “How did my body heal?” So naturally, learning the inner workings of the human body became very appealing to me and still is to this day. Now, I actually have the chance to discover new treatments and cures that may one day help others, and this is what inspires me to do research.

What are three keywords important to your 3MT?

ketones, therapy, inflammation

How has your research changed during COVID-19?

As is likely true for everyone else, COVID-19 took away from my ability to make consistent progress with my work. Actually, my project had been on hold since the pandemic started. It particularly took a toll on my mental health as well because I enjoy interacting with my friends, mentors, and collaborators in my working environment. Nevertheless, I ended up using a lot of this time to reflect inwards and better understand what I wanted to achieve. Regardless, I’m happy to be back (almost fully) and I’m optimistic that we won’t need to go back to that again.

If you had to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why? 

I’d like to dedicate my research to my grandpa who passed away six months ago. One of my favourite memories of him was back when I was just a 5-year-old kid in India. He took me out to our street and dropped a tiny piece of pure sodium into a glass of water, causing it to magically zip around in the water. He cultivated my curiosity and inspired me to learn about the world around me. His premature passing was due to some complications with treatments. I hope that my research can contribute to improving future treatments to help people just like him and help families stay connected.