Physiology Graduate Student Spotlight - Meet Shahid Ullah

Shahid is originally from Bangladesh, and he is pursuing his PhD degree under the supervision of Dr. Emmanuelle Cordat.

4 November 2019

Shahid is from Bangladesh, and he is in his 5th year PhD program in Dr. Emmanuelle Cordat's lab focusing on renal physiology.

How would you describe your research (brief)?

At this moment, I am focusing on a tight junction protein claudin-4 knockout mice ( intercalated cell specific) and studying the role of it in renal homeostasis of pH and electrolytes. My current spotlight is the calcium losing phenotype of the KO mice and pursuing for plausible explanation of why/how an anion permeant tight junction protein can play a role in a cation (calcium) homeostasis.

What inspired you to pursue your current research?

My background in molecular biology and outgrowing interest in human physiology would be the cardinal cause of my interest in pursuing my current research. In my undergraduate degree in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, I studied plant physiology (my first ever hand on research experience), human and animal physiology. Plant physiology was interesting but to try out another system, I completed an MSc degree from the department of biological sciences at the U of A in insect physiology (on ticks). After completing my MSc I realized, it is not plant or insect physiology rather human physiology that attracts me the most and therefore, here I am.

What impact(s) will your research have outside of your lab?

Approximately 4 million Canadians already have or are at risk of kidney diseases and the number of Canadians treated for kidney failure has tripled over the past 20 years. Death due to kidney diseases ranked 11th in Canada in 2016. Among general population 5-10% of people who are suffering from kidney disease are due to hypercalciuria (increased calcium in the urine) caused by many known and unknown reasons. Our work will explain the calcium losing phenotype of the claudin-4 KO mice and will also identify potential therapeutic target for calcium related diseases that are causing a great deal of suffering for many Canadian patients having chronic kidney diseases, kidney stones and hypercalciuria.

What advice would you give to someone that is just starting graduate studies?

Keep in mind that, being a graduate student is the second most difficult job in the world (after parenting). Things will fail every day, but you have to find a way to fix it, and you will! Failure is a regular phenomenon, but that increases the taste of success by thousand folds. Graduate life could be very stressful, or could be very much fun. Always expect the unexpected and things would happen only when you least expect them. Things always take more time than you could imagine even if you do not procrastinate. Read papers, get updated. Go to conferences and travel, it is ok to mix business with pleasure. Keep dreaming and keep working hard as it always pays off. Just hang on and don't let go. When things go wrong, stay calm and sing " HAKUNA MATATA". It will all be well at the end.

What is your favorite place/thing to do here at the UofA or in Edmonton?

At the U of A I go to the gym and the swimming pool in Butterdome. I like to do photography and fishing, so sometimes I just wander around with my camera. In summer, I go to various fishing spots at the Saskacthewan river or different lakes in or around Edmonton. I also write blogs but irregularly.