St. FX student to work with leading researcher in Cystic Fibrosis

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ANTIGONISH – St. Francis Xavier University biology master's student Amber MacLellan is preparing to leave for Baltimore, Maryland to work with one of the leading researchers in Cystic Fibrosis biology.

MacLellan, a native of Antigonish, received $6,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement Award to further her research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine this spring.

“I love the research I’m doing, and I’m really excited to expand the project and get international collaboration,” says MacLellan, who graduated from St. FX with an honours biology undergraduate degree in 2011.

MacLellan, now a master’s student in the lab of St. FX biology professor Dr. Bill Marshall, studies ion transport physiology, specifically the regulation of Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator.

In Cystic Fibrosis, she explains it’s an ion transport protein that malfunctions. “I’m studying proteins that would regulate or increase its function so that hopefully we can find a protein to enhance its functional capacity.”

MacLellan says she became interested in the research area while completing her honours undergraduate research with Dr. Marshall, whose research focuses on Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator in fish. They expanded the project so that she could look at human lung cells.

The NSERC-CGS funding, which comes in addition to her Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship for post-graduate research, funds her experience at a foreign research institution.

She will spend three months at Johns Hopkins University from April to July.

MacLellan says after completing her master’s degree she plans to stay in the area of medical research and is considering either pursuing medical school and/or a PhD program.

“It’s a really fast expanding field,” she says. “I like the implications of contributing to the wealth of knowledge, and hopefully contributing to a cure sometime.”

Organizations: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, St. Francis Xavier University, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Johns Hopkins University

Geographic location: ANTIGONISH, Baltimore, Maryland

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