Congratulations to Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Sofia Graham, for receiving the prestigious Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship Award.
Sofia works with Dr. Govind Kaigala on bioanalytical tools and methods for precise and quantitative interrogation of biological systems. Before coming to UBC, Sofia completed her PhD in Biotechnology Engineering from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and achieved a doctoral degree in Technical Chemistry from Leibniz University Hannover in a special dual doctoral program.
Her doctoral research was focused on developing microfluidics-integrated porous silicon optical biosensors for medical diagnostics. I was then awarded the Israel’s Council for Higher Education Postdoctoral Fellowship for Women in Science (VATAT), which enabled me to join as a postdoctoral fellow in UBC.
What will the Killam Award help you do?
Being awarded the Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship is a tremendous honor. The generous support of the fellowship will allow me to continue investing in my research.
Tell us a bit about your research.
In my research at the group of Dr. Govind Kaigala we develop microfluidic technologies for investigations in cell communication. We focus on two novel approaches – open space microfluidics and reconfigurable microfluidics. The first allows us to bring the advantages of microfluidics directly to flat samples, where the sample is not pre-confined in the physical microchannels but we deliver the reagents directly to it. For example, we can extract or deliver reagents locally to specific cells in a culture, while not affecting their peers. The second part is eliminating the fixed channels by dynamically confining the flow via other means, thus allowing for the user to define the flow path and consequently, real-time experimental decision making. We apply these technologies to bring new insights into processes such as cancer cell invasiveness and immune-cancer interactions.
What the significance of your research to the average person?
Precise communication between individual cells plays a central role in preventing various pathological conditions, such as cancer and autoimmunity. Understanding the related pathways is crucial for developing treatment options. Many of the currently used technologies for studying cell interactions are based on bulk analysis and end point measurements, missing vital information. With our technologies, we aim to enable flexible experimental design to extract impactful information with high resolution, both in space and in time, related to various pathological conditions.
Why did you decide to do research at UBC?
I have been inspired by the work of Dr. Kaigala while he was leading a research team at IBM Research in Zurich. Especially, the interfacing between engineering and biomedicine and the focus on both the translational aspect of the work, as well as fundamental understanding of physical phenomena. I was excited to learn he was joining UBC as one of the leading universities in the world with cutting edge research and innovation. I was also thrilled to take part in establishing a new research lab at UBC, which was a highly valuable experience.
Where do you see yourself moving forward?
My career aspiration is to lead my own research lab, contributing to healthcare through novel microtechnologies, which can improve patient diagnosis, therapeutic decisions, and treatment.