MICI alumnus Brendan Dickson: a Clinician-scientist shoots for the stars» Go to news main
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Current career – Clinician-scientist at Mount Sinai Hospital/University of Toronto
Favourite departmental professor - Dr. Ron Carr
Favourite DMI discipline – Immunology
If you were to ask any group of elementary school students what they wanted to be when they grew up, I can guarantee that astronaut will always be one of the top choices. Think back to your own childhood, did you dream of going to space? Discovering aliens? New planets? The answer is probably “yes”.
Somewhere along the way, most of us decided that maybe space travel wasn’t in our cards but this year for two Canadians the childhood dream of space exploration will become a reality. The initial selection process by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) identified 72 potential candidates for the job; one of which is Dr. Brendan Dickson, an alumnus from our very own Microbiology & Immunology program.
Dr. Dickson began his academic career with undergraduate training at Dalhousie University, graduating with a combined BSc/BA with majors in Microbiology & Immunology, Biology, and Psychology. Following his BSc, he went on to complete an MSc in Pathology under the supervision of Dr. Jim Wright and then finally attended medical school and residency training at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Dickson chose to begin his career with training in Microbiology & Immunology on the suggestion of his father, Dr. Howard Dickson, and speaks highly of his training in our program. Dr. Brendan Dickson explains: “A background in microbiology and immunology provides a robust foundation that lends itself well to medicine, as well as research in the life sciences. For me, it provided a natural stepping stone for both my graduate and medical education.”
Using that stepping stone, Dr. Dickson leads a successful career, now working at Mount Sinai hospital and the University of Toronto where he uses both his research and medical training as a clinician-scientist. Dr. Dickson’s research has two main focuses: improving diagnostics for bone and soft tissue tumours, and discovering the mechanisms that lead to sarcoma formation.
When the Canadian Space Agency announced its call for applicants, Dr. Dickson was overjoyed. Opportunity, experience, and education, as well as a healthy dose of childhood dream had all aligned.
The CSA’s requirements are vigorous. While applicants must be in peak physical fitness, emphasis is put on both education in the sciences, as well as the expertise needed to put this education to work. Luckily, with degrees across 5 scientific disciplines, and extensive medical training, Dr. Dickson easily fits these criteria.
While often overshadowed by other aspects of the job, Canadian astronauts are also tasked with expanding the minds of Canadians, young and old. As a leader in his field, Dr. Dickson already uses his position to share his knowledge and insight with other pathologists, and students. He hoped that with the position he will be able to share his enthusiasm and love of the sciences with as many people as he can. With the resume he has, it is far from surprising that Dr. Dickson was among the top 72 candidates out of over 3700 applicants.
Dr. Dickson emphasized the importance of balance to all those thinking of applying to the CSA in the future. Spaceflight is hardly predictable, astronauts are expected to adapt to all possible outcomes and applicants should be equally adaptable in both their careers and extracurriculars. However, Dr. Dickson does not understate the importance of failure. When asked what he wished someone had taught him earlier in life, he responded, “...some of the most valuable lessons resonate because they are the product of hard-earned trial and error.”
Unfortunately, Dr. Dickson was cut from the CSA’s selection process when 72 were reduced to 32 candidates. However, that does not understate the accomplishment of making it to this point. His reseach and medical practice represent outstanding accomplishments and contributions to cancer care in Canada. We, in the Microbiology & Immunology Department are proud of our alumni, and wish him all the best in the future.
Simon Gebremeskel wins the Dalhousie 3-minute thesis contest!» Go to news main
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The Dalhousie University 3MT (3 Minute Thesis) competition was held March 1st and 2nd. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology had two graduate students compete in this competition run by the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS). Vinothkumar Rajan (supervisor Dr. Jason Berman), and Simon Gebremeskel (Supervisor, Dr. Brent Johnston) both presented their research in separate heats on Wednesday.
At the competition, students present their thesis, in layman’s terms, in three minutes to three judges and an audience. This year there were 90 students from 33 different degree programs that presented at this competition. Competitors were judged on communication style, comprehension, and engagement. Both students presented extremely well.
Simon, presenting 'Harnessing the immune system to fight cancer', was the winner of his heat which meant he was invited to join the other nine heat winners in the finals held Thursday evening. At the end of the presentations, Simon was announced as the winner of the Dalhousie University 3MT competition for 2017. Simon receives a $1000 prize, his name on a commemorative plaque in the FGS Office, and an expense paid trip to compete in the Eastern Regional 3MT competition, which will be held on April 20th at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. The top three presenters from that competition will have a recording of their presentation forwarded to the National 3MT competition later this year.
Congratulations and well done to both our competitors, and the very best of luck to Simon on the next stage of this competition.