From left to right: Dr. Yingchun Wang (research associate), Serisha Moodley, and Ms. Hyunhee Kim (graduating PhD student in the department of physiology)

Spotlight on Serisha Moodley

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Serisha Moodley, 5th year PhD Student, Institute of Medical Science Latner Thoracic Surgery Research Lab, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute

By: Arunima Kapoor

The decision to pursue a PhD degree is a commitment unlike any other. This degree requires the passion to dedicate many years to one specific goal. Serisha Moodley, a 5th year PhD student at the Institute of Medical Science (IMS), decided to make this commitment after she discovered her passion for the study of protein function. While completing a Master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Toronto, Serisha fell in love with protein structure and function. Recognizing the lack of in vitro and in vivo models in chemistry, Serisha joined the IMS to explore how protein function and interactions within a cell relate to certain diseases.

Serisha chose the IMS at the University of Toronto to pursue her PhD when she realized the significance of her work in the context of medical science. She was initially drawn to the IMS for its emphasis on translational research when the “bench-to-bedside” approach was introduced. Serisha currently works in the Latner Thoracic Surgery Research Lab under the supervision of Dr. Mingyao Liu. Alongside studying protein-protein interaction and protein function, she is also exploring how these functions relate to diseases such as acute lung injury during lung transplantation and cancer. When asked what she hopes to learn, she states, “For me, it is important to understand how these proteins interact to maintain cell homeostasis or to resolve injury and get back to their normal state.” She hopes that her field of study embraces further collaboration between basic and clinical science.

While completing a doctoral degree is demanding for all graduate students, Serisha’s path to completing her degree has been much more challenging than it is for most students. Approximately two years ago, Serisha was diagnosed with cancer. She believes that one of her biggest accomplishments to date is being able to return to her studies with a positive mental state. She is now back in the lab finishing up her PhD degree. Indeed, one thing that we could all learn from Serisha is how to remain positive and strong despite the overwhelming obstacles that life sometimes brings about.

When asked what advice she would give to someone starting out in the field of research, Serisha says, that one of the most important things is “to be confident in yourself and to believe in what you are doing.” In the little time that Serisha spends outside the lab, she enjoys photography. However, the past year has been extremely busy for Serisha. She published multiple papers and won two Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund awards. Given her unwavering devotion to her research, it is hardly a surprise that Serisha is achieving excellence. After her PhD, she plans to continue working in academia as a post-doctoral fellow or research associate, studying the molecular mechanisms governing respiratory diseases. She also hopes to bridge the gap between science, communication, and the general public by using her skills to educate the community about health-related issues and the advantages of personalized medicine. Serisha’s journey as a graduate student teaches us all that persistence, dedication, and a positive attitude are essential to succeed as a graduate student and thrive in the field of science.