Justine Kniert

Justine Kniert

Introduce yourself:

I am a first year Master's student in Medical Microbiology and Immunology, specializing in Virology. I grew up in the small village of Fruitvale before moving to Kelowna, British Columbia, where I completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry (Honours). During my undergraduate studies, I became fascinated with viruses, and how they can be used for our advantage in medicine. This interest that led me to Dr. Shmulevitz’s lab, where we are working to use a non-pathogenic virus in the fight against cancer, among other things.

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

Reovirus is a non-pathogenic virus that has an inherent preference to replicate in, and subsequently kill, cancer cells but not healthy cells. I am researching how mammalian orthoreovirus 3 replicates within the cancer cell environment. I hope that through a more detailed understanding of the process, we can manipulate it to our advantage and develop a better cancer-killing therapeutic.

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

In my experience, translating biochemical and medical research to the general public can be a challenge. This is partially due to the amount of background knowledge required to understand a particular topic — no one becomes a rocket scientist overnight. But, just because an endeavor is difficult does not mean it should be brushed off. Presenting a 3MT has given me the opportunity to practice a communication style that showcases the importance of making medical research accessible to a general audience, who may not have a strong background in the medical sciences.

Define "For the Public Good" in your own words.

To me, it means for the good of all. As someone who is passionate about medicine and research, my core values and beliefs encompass not just what is beneficial to me in the moment, but every person throughout the course of time. I decided to pursue a degree in scientific research not just for my own beliefs, but because I truly believe that my progress could contribute to therapies for many people going forward.

What inspires you to do research?

A million things. I truly do not think I could encompass everything that inspires me into one answer; I could probably write an entire book. If I had to wrap it up in just a few words, it would be a combination of my own interests and curiosity, the inspiring work and feats that women throughout history have made in the sciences (which have paved the way for me to be where I am today), and this need that I feel to give back and to leave something of importance on this world.

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

I would dedicate my research first and foremost to the women in my family, including my mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmother, who did not have the opportunities that I am afforded today. I am a first-generation student to pursue a post-secondary education, and it would not have been possible without the work and sacrifices of my own mother and family. In addition to them, I would like to dedicate my endeavours to anyone who has a passion for science and wants to be involved in research; it is the entire scientific community who inspires me everyday.

3MT Keywords: virus; assembly; cancer-killing