BC Diabetes Research Network Trainee Spotlight: Priye Iworima, PhD student | Islet biology and cell therapy
This quarter we shine a spotlight on BCDRN trainee Priye Iworima. Priye is a graduate trainee in the Kieffer Lab at the UBC Life Sciences Institute. Learn more about Priye and her journey to pursue her passion for research that makes an impact on the lives of those living with diabetes.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Port-Harcourt city, Nigeria. I did everything imaginable as a child: I played every sport, I played the trumpet, I sang in the church and school choir, I made portraits! I was a very busy child. I was also in a never-ending contest with my elder sister, who taught me how to draw and play sports. Technically, I won this competition!
What did you study in your undergrad and where?
When I first moved to Canada, I went to Grande Prairie Regional College before transferring to Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Burnaby, British Columbia. I quickly joined the varsity track and field team at SFU. I finished my BSc (Hons) and MSc degrees at SFU and researched the effects of disrupted mitochondrial movement on its form and function. I found that if I disrupted kinesin-mediated movement in primary cortical neurons, there was an impact on mitochondrial morphology. The change in morphology also led to an increased susceptibility to particular toxic challenges.
What got you interested in diabetes research?
It really was the community. After I started working in the Kieffer lab, I had the opportunity to connect with more people living with diabetes, researchers studying diabetes and members of different funding agencies etc. The environment was full of comradery, support, inspiration, and a genuine desire to make an impact in the lives of everyone around us. It was amazing. I knew I wanted to be a part of that community.
How far along are you in your degree and what do you hope to achieve in 2019 with your research?
I’m currently in the third year of my PhD program. For this year, I’m hoping to finish up a couple of manuscripts and have those submitted. I’ve got many experiments already planned out for the year and hope that I can achieve all of them. With the pandemic, I have to be flexible, so I’m also taking it one day at a time.
Any funny stories to share with the trainee community?
Oh, I have so many! Interesting things seem to happen to me. You know the old Windex commercial where the birds fly into the glass door because it was so clean? I always thought to myself, “how silly would it be if people did this?” “Who would ever do this?”. So one beautiful afternoon, we (the track and field varsity team) were practicing drills indoors. I left something in the change room and decided to sprint quickly to it. I sprinted, full force, into the closed glass door. SMACK! I got up, looked around and just started laughing so hard because I couldn’t believe I had just done this one thing. Yes, it hurt, but it still makes me chuckle every time I think about it.
Any advice for trainees starting out on how to connect with colleagues?
Networking can be scary, but if you learn this skill, it will serve you well for the rest of your life. You can start practicing in the comfort of your lab, for example, during lab meetings. Ask questions, provide critical feedback. Attend departmental research days to connect with other researchers in your institute. Many mentor-mentee relationships start at such events. Be curious! Curiosity will fuel your desire to learn and teach you how to ask questions. Be open to new things. Take a chance! Find opportunities, take opportunities and make opportunities. Just remember, you do not need to go through this journey alone.
What was your favourite research event/meeting to attend?
The A-BC islet meeting was my favourite meeting to attend, and I’m so glad I got to do so before the COVID pandemic. It was a well-organized meeting. I got to meet a lot of my email buddies in person. I made some new connections, and I learned a ton of great science. And I got to play in the snow.
What is your dream travel destination when covid is over?
Belize! That was the plan for 2020 prior to the pandemic, so I’m keeping that dream alive.