Fall 2021 Convocation Spotlight: Amirali Bukhari, ‘21 PhD in Cancer Sciences (Department of Oncology)

Adrianna MacPherson - 16 November 2021

A passion for cancer research sparked an academic journey that has spanned continents for this recent doctoral graduate.

Amir (Amirali) Bukhari’s path to becoming a cancer researcher began all the way back in a Grade 10 science class. “We had a chapter in the biology textbook that was all about cancer, and I was so fascinated by it. I just wanted to learn and know more about it,” he says. He moved to India from the Middle East to pursue his master’s degree, and was looking primarily at European institutions for his doctoral studies. However, one of his former colleagues, a new postdoctoral fellow here who was impressed by the research happening on campus, suggested that since Bukhari was looking at cancer-specific programs, he should consider the University of Alberta. Bukhari estimates he sent over 100 applications, all around the globe, and it was Armin Gamper’s lab at the U of A that ended up being the perfect fit. 

A self-confessed workaholic, Bukhari paired his breast cancer research—a focus he selected partially due to his previous master’s research, and partially due to a personal connection, as his late grandmother had metastatic breast cancer—with a variety of volunteering roles on campus. He served as assistant chair of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta (CRINA) Research Day organization committee,  as a member of the CRINA trainee committee, a grad student representative for the Cross Cancer Institute’s animal care committee, and a volunteer for departmental tours to students, patients and volunteers. When he is hit by the need to step away from the lab and destress, he makes the most of one of Edmonton’s prized features, the river valley, walking the trails and finding different spots to appreciate the beauty of nature.

We spoke to Bukhari about his doctoral studies and time at the U of A, where he delved deeper into the breast cancer research he started during his master’s studies. From battling burnout to winning multiple scholarships, including the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Dr. Cyril M. Kay Graduate Studentship, his path has been full of both challenges and triumphs—he reflects as he moves onto his next chapter.

Read more about his experiences and mentorship-focused advice for future graduate students.