Convocation Spotlight: Sams Sadat

PhD graduate Sams Sadat’s passion for developing vaccines and therapies has him heading to Vancouver.

14 June 2022

my-photo---sams-sadat.jpgWhen the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, PhD graduate Sams Sadat worried it could immensely impact his research work. But thanks to the support from his supervisors, Sadat says when the University of Alberta completely shut down, everything turned out OK for him and he was able to focus on his thesis writing. 

“In the end, I found myself not affected by the pandemic restrictions,” says Sadat as he graduates from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

He shares with us his journey, from pursuing a degree during the pandemic to moving to Edmonton in the dead of winter.  

What drew you to this area of study?
My PhD thesis was a part of a new anti-cancer drug development project which aimed to develop the nanocarrier of a novel inhibitor of a DNA-repair enzyme known as polynucleotide kinase phosphatase (PNKP). The long-term goal of my thesis project was to develop and test potent and tumour-specific inhibitors of this DNA-repair enzyme as new treatments that can make colorectal tumours more susceptible to DNA-damaging treatments at low micro to nano molar levels, but at the same time spare the normal cells from their toxic effects. I was really fascinated with the project proposal. I believed that achieving the goals of this project could introduce us to a new treatment for both PTEN-positive and -negative colorectal cancer patients.

What moment are you most proud of?
I believe I have never been an extraordinary student. But I always found that, to do something really good, it is important for me to gain extensive knowledge and hands-on experience from the right mentor and workplace. Joining Dr. Afsaneh Lavasanifar’s lab at the U of A was an important milestone for me in reaching the set goals of my future career. I was also fortunate to be awarded prestigious Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, provincial and national scholarships, which included the Alberta Innovates and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)-CGS-D award. I was extremely happy that my research work made a huge impact on the reviewers of those award committees. Publishing papers in high-impact journals and winning awards were really motivating.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?
After joining this lab, I was overwhelmed with all the new types of research work and the course load I had, while trying to maintain my family with a little kid. Moving to a new place — especially during the winter term in Edmonton — was not so easy. However, hard work and time management really helped me overcome all these hurdles. My research experiments under the proper guidance of my supervisor and co-supervisor were going well with expected positive results.

What comes next for you?
I have secured a position as a scientist at Precision NanoSystems Inc., Vancouver, which is a global leader in technologies, solutions and services for the development of non-viral delivery of genomic medicines, including mRNA vaccines and therapeutics. These are all things that I love to do. Securing this position wouldn’t have been possible without my experience in my PhD lab at the U of A. At the same time, I value the need to be a good human. I have a positive attitude towards life and look forward to meeting new people to engage and work with. In the future, I’d like to be an independent research investigator with my own lab to develop next generation genomic nanomedicines in respect to cancer and immunocompromised patients. I am waiting to get that level of opportunity.

What advice would you give to new graduate students?
Honesty and ethics are very important in research work. Success will come if you conduct your research with integrity and passion. Hard work and time management to reach the deadline should also be a priority for any graduate student. Prior to graduating, communication and networking through your own supervisors is a great pathway to build the area of future career interest.