Concordia PhD student is awarded $100K to pursue research in genetic engineering
“My research seeks to engineer compounds that can otherwise be difficult or costly to produce,” says Concordia PhD student Tina Papazotos.
“Using genetically engineered bacteria could be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than traditional methods of producing valuable chemicals. I hope to see more companies adopt this kind of technology in the future.”
Concordia recently awarded a 2021 Miriam Aaron Roland Graduate Fellowship to Papazotos to pursue her research into synthetic biology. The highly collaborative and interdisciplinary field involves engineering biological systems such as cells.
Papazotos was unanimously ranked number one by the fellowship selection committee based on her research proposal.
Each year, two doctoral students receive the fellowship, valued at $100,000 and distributed across the four years of a PhD program. The fellowship recognizes Concordia students whose interdisciplinary research enhances the university’s research profile.
‘The most creative ideas often come from collaborating’
Papazotos is supervised by Laurent Potvin-Trottier, assistant professor of biology in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Working in the Potvin Lab, Papazotos applies an engineering approach to biology to build gene circuits in bacteria. Like electrical circuits, they control how genes are turned on and off in a cell.
Papazotos’s research has taken her from studying fish viruses to the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals. She says synthetic biologists are lucky to have the opportunity to collaborate with physicists and engineers in the lab.
“The most creative ideas often come from collaborating with people from different educational backgrounds who contribute unique outlooks,” she says.
As a researcher and student, Papazotos has also learned to look at setbacks differently.
“I used to treat a bad grade or failed experiment as a personal failure,” she admits. “Although it may not feel productive at the time, stepping back and taking some time for myself often puts things into perspective.”
She adds that the support she received throughout her studies inspires her to do the same for others. She is a volunteer mentor for Concordia’s undergraduate iGEM team, who participate in the annual International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition.
As she begins her PhD program this month, Papazotos says she’s excited to continue her research and hopes to participate in shaping policy related to synthetic biology in her future career.
Find out more about graduate awards and funding at Concordia.