Convocation 2018 Spotlight Series | Adam Kinnaird and Emily Herman

Adam Kinnaird and Emily Herman are Vanier Scholars and 2018 PhD graduates.

Melissa Fabrizio - 01 June 2018

Convocation Spotlight Series | Adam Kinnaird

Athlete. Urologist. Vanier Scholar. Adam Kinnaird spent his time at the University of Alberta working hard and reaping the rewards.

Adam Kinnaird is the recipient of the Governor General's Gold Medal at the 2018 Spring Convocation. This award recognizes the most outstanding PhD graduate at the University of Alberta. Selection is based primarily on excellence of the dissertation, with attention to cumulative scholarly achievement during the doctoral program. A Vanier Scholar, Kinnaird's PhD thesis, entitled Metabolic reprogramming and epigenetic regulation in renal cell carcinoma, focuses on the interplay between cellular metabolism and the regulation of DNA in cancer cells. His doctoral work resulted in publications in high impact journals such as Cell, Nature Reviews Cancer, Science Translational Medicine and the top ranked urological journal, European Urology.

He will be performing a fellowship in Imaging, Targeted Biopsy, and Focal Therapy of Prostate Cancer at the University of California, Los Angeles, upon the completion of his residency in 2019.

What was your favourite class during your program?

I was fortunate to start my doctorate the year the Department of Medicine's Translational Medicine Program came online. This program expanded both my theoretical and practical knowledge of the translation of bench to bedside research. The highlight of this program was interacting with the spectrum of basic science graduate students, residents, and clinical and research fellows each week.

Who was your mentor or favourite professor?

Evangelos Michelakis is a great clinician-scientist and mentor. I was attracted to his lab because of his history of research excellence. However, I discovered that the most important thing I am taking away is his ongoing mentorship on how to become a successful clinician-scientist.

What's next for you?

I am entering into my final year of residency in Urology at the University of Alberta. In the summer of 2019, I will be performing a fellowship in Imaging, Targeted Biopsy, and Focal Therapy of Prostate Cancer at UCLA.

Convocation Spotlight Series | Emily Herman

CBSA President. Scientist. Vanier Scholar. Emily Herman is a big-picture thinker looking to utilize her academic background in the private sector.

What advice would you give to new students?
Other people's successes are not your failures, so just focus on doing your best. A big part of being successful in graduate school is learning how to give and accept critical feedback, which is necessary to grow academically and personally. An extension of this is being respectful and constructive when challenging someone's ideas, methods, or data interpretation, which are habits that will get you far in academia.

How did you engage with student life on campus?
For several years I was involved with the Cell Biology Graduate Students Association(CBSA) and served as CBSA President in 2013-2014. This meant that I got to help organize my department's annual Research Day and social events with other grad students. Being on the CBSA Executive was a fun and rewarding experience.

What was your most memorable UAlberta experience?
The most memorable experience was winning a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. My supervisor and I were pretty emotional when we found out I won because only around 50 are awarded each year to graduate students across Canada. I felt very honoured, and it gave me a lot of opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise.

What was your favourite class during your program?
My favourite class was a bioinformatics class taught by Bart Hazes the first year of my PhD. It was a really important class for me, because it focused on the theory underlying the techniques that I was using in my research. It also introduced me to new methods that I then incorporated into my work. Dr. Hazes was also great at explaining complex concepts, which some of the material less daunting.

Who was your mentor or favourite professor?
My mentor was (and still is) my supervisor, Joel Dacks. Joel has always been incredibly supportive of me and everyone else in his lab. He is an excellent scientific role model. One thing I'm really grateful for is that he always pushed me to think philosophically about my work and how it fits in the larger context of our scientific field. I have also learnt a lot from Joel about integrity and ethical leadership. This year, Joel received the Tier II Basic Science Award for Excellence in Mentoring Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows from the FoMD, so it's clear that he is an outstanding supervisor.

What's next for you?
Currently I'm finishing and submitting some manuscripts from my PhD, and exploring my options for the next step in my career. I enjoy a lot of things about academia, but I'm not sure that I would enjoy being a professor. I think a lot of interesting science is being done in industry and the private sector, so I'm looking into opportunities in those areas.