FRESH FACES || Meet biochemistry's new recruits Sue-Ann Mok and Olivier Julien

Two UAlberta alumni return to launch their careers as assistant professors.

Shelby Soke - 20 September 2017

What is your academic background?

Olivier Julien, '11 PhD: I am originally from Quebec City. I went to Laval University for my undergrad and came to the U of A to do an exchange. I did a research project here and stayed on to complete my PhD in 2011 with professor Brian Sykes.

Sue-Ann Mok, '09 PhD: I was born and raised in Kitchener, Ontario and went to the University of Toronto for my undergrad. I came to the U of A and did my PhD in the Department of Cell Biology.

Julien: I met Sue-Ann at the U of A in 2005 when she was completing her PhD in cell biology and we moved to the University of California, San Francisco and did research there until July, 2017.

What do you research?

Julien: My PhD was focused on protein structures, and it was awesome but I decided I needed to broaden my area of expertise and learn more about systems biology, which is what I did at UCSF. In my lab here, I'll be using mass spectrometry proteomics to study proteases, enzymes that cut and cleave different proteins.

Mok: I'm interested in a fascinating type of cell called neurons. Neurons have to live a really long time, often decades, so they face special challenges. They have to fold all their proteins properly so the cells can continue to function. There's a special group of proteins called molecular chaperones that help to fold proteins in the cell. I'm interested in how these molecular chaperones work and what happens when they stop working and proteins start to misfold in ways that can lead to disease.

What are you looking forward to?

Julien: I'm looking forward to going on my own path and training new students. I had the privilege of having great mentors, but now it's time for me to be the adviser. I'm very excited to work with students and teach them what I have learned.

Mok: Same here (laughs). I'm also excited to train students. I want to nurture that creativity, spirit and energy in science that my mentors were able to instill in me.

What is it like being back at the University of Alberta?

Julien: We're very excited, we had a great time here during grad school. It's great to come back and be colleagues with my old mentors.

Mok: It's a little surreal. To be a student and now to come back as a faculty member. We got a great education here, so the opportunity to be able to give back is amazing.

Julien: We had to get updated OneCards, which was funny.

What did you miss about Canada while you were away?

Julien: We actually met on a grad student ski trip. I'm looking forward to being close to the mountains again and doing all the Canadian activities like curling and ice skating that we missed.

Mok: During our years in California we never had a chance to do many of those things, so we're excited to share these kinds of experiences with our son.

Stay up-to-date with Olivier Julien and Sue-Ann Mok's work: