Jaime Van Loon, Biochemistry

Jamie Van LoonJamie Van Loon Year of Study: 1st
Student’s Name: Jaime Van Loon

Graduate Department: Biochemistry
Country of Residence: Walkerton, Ontario, Canada

Why Faculty of Medicine?
During my undergraduate degree, I participated in The SickKids Summer Research Program (SSuRe). From this experience, I interacted with countless fellow students from varying departments, centres, and institutes all in the Faculty of Medicine. The vast range of ground-breaking research that I was able to learn about and be a part of helped guide my decision to attend graduate school. Along with the reputability of the researchers in the Faculty of Medicine, I also recognized how important the collaborations between scientists within the borders of this faculty were.

Why this Department?
I chose the Department of Biochemistry because of my specific interest in wanting to answer questions that related to finding solutions for major human diseases. The Department of Biochemistry specialties of Protein Structure and Dynamics, and Molecular Medicine and Drug Discovery, provided me with a basis for conducting research in this area of study. In particular, I was interested in structural biology, with a focus on using biophysical techniques to help determine the significant structural aspects of select proteins. I knew that studying in this department would allow me to achieve the quality and level of success that I am aiming to pursue in my future career as a biochemist.

Current Research Experience
Biofilms are communities of bacterial cells surrounded by an extracellular matrix (ECM). An essential component of the ECM is exopolysaccharides (EPS), which enable the embedded bacteria to resist the immune system and antibiotic therapies. Despite the ability of many Gram-positive species to produce biofilms and become pathogenic, to date the mechanisms involved in the production of Gram-positive EPS production have not been studied in detail. Recently, an operon that is prominent in the Gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa was identified in many Gram-positive species, including Streptococcus intermedius. S. intermedius is an opportunistic pathogen often found in abscess infections of normally sterile tissues such as the liver and brain, and it can contribute to lung exacerbations in Cystic Fibrosis patients. As part of my doctoral studies, I will use a structure-function approach to characterize proteins with unknown functions that were found in this operon. Overall, this study will be the first in-depth analysis of the pathways involved in S. intermedius biofilm formation. In the future this will enable the development of therapeutics, such as small molecule inhibitors, to prevent this biofilm formation.

Future Education Plans and/or Career Goals
After obtaining my PhD, I plan to enter the pharmaceutical field as a research scientist working in drug research and development.

Contact Ambassador Jaimie Van Loon