Why Do Biomedical Research?

Are you considering a career in biomedical research? Consider the following: there are several types of biomedical research, including clinical research, population health research and as well as basic biomedical research. Clinical research tends to focus on the evaluation of clinical symptoms, assessment of drug efficacy in groups of patients, and identifying markers of disease. Population health research focuses on understanding common disease markers or trends in and risk factors for diseases in large populations. This pursuit requires a deep understanding of biostatistics in addition to an appreciation of the diseases being studied. Basic biomedical research focuses on understanding disease processes such as the biochemical mechanisms involved in the initiation of a disease and identifying potential therapeutic strategies. Such studies quite often involve the ethical use of animal models and in vitro (studies outside of a living system) systems. Such approaches allow for the understanding of how individual molecules or groups of molecules may interact in disease process.

Questions you may be wondering about

Which type of biomedical research is right for me?

This all depends on what motivates you. For example, if you enjoy discovering how things work and have an urge to take things apart, then figuring out how the individual parts of a biological system interact during basic biomedical research may be your dream job!

But what can I do with a degree in basic biomedical research?

Contrary to popular belief, training in basic biomedical research (a Master’s or Doctor of Philosophy) leaves a large number of career options open to you. In addition to academic and industrial research positions, which most people are aware of, one can pursue degrees in graphic arts (medical illustrator), legal (patent law), journalism (science or technical writer), sales (for pharmaceutical or biomedical companies) as well as business (venture capital companies look for consultants well-versed in the sciences to evaluate start-up biotechnology companies). These are only a small sampling of the options available to individuals with a MSc. or PhD. degree.

What is the power for a graduate degree?

The actual topic of your graduate dissertation will be of little interest to potential employers, unless you are pursuing biomedical research in the same area as your thesis work. Employers are really looking for individuals who have the ability to think and use the problem-solving skills they honed during the course of their graduate work. In addition, the completion of a written thesis demonstrates that you have the ability to clearly articulate your work; an extremely valuable skill in today’s employment market.

Mitochondrial Signaling in Health and Disease

Why Study Mitochondria?

Mitochondria have been classically thought of oval-shaped organelles responsible for generating ATP and supplying the cells energy demands. However, energy balance is inexorably linked to cellular health. Therefore changes in the level of cellular stressors, which can occur as a result of diseased conditions (cancer) or in normal healthy individuals (aging), will result in changes to the cellular energy balance. Such demands impact the mitochondria, and they in turn respond with a variety of metabolic “adjustments”. We do not fully understand the network of molecules that mediate and respond to these adjustments. The breadth of mitochondrial involvement in disease processes is outlined in Figure 1.

Mitochondrial Disfunction

Figure 1: Diseases associated with mitochondrial dysfunction

The importance of understanding the signaling process in mitochondria has become quite evident in the literature over the last 5-6 years. Figure 2 outlines the dramatic increase in publications in this field over the last 10 years. The inter-relationships between cellular distress, mitochondrial function and the signaling of changes in gene expression are central regulatory events in a number of disease processes. This is a very active area of research.

Published Papers
Figure 2: A ten-fold increase in publications relating to mitochondrial
signaling over the last ten years as reported in Pubmed