CBR Graduate Profile: Bronwyn Lyons

Degree: PhD, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Supervisor: Dr. Natalie Strynadka
Program Start: September 2017
Graduation: June 2022 (Graduation ceremony: November 2022)

Which lab and what degree you were pursuing at UBC and CBR?

I previously completed my MSc at the University of Guelph (Ontario) and came to UBC for my PhD in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology under the supervision of Dr. Natalie Strynadka.

What was your research about?

My research focused on virulence machinery that bacteria use to help cause infections in humans. More specifically, I studied the proteins that make up the Type 3 Secretion System in Enteropathogenic E. coli using a variety of structural biology methods including cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography. Understanding how these machines are built and what they look like on an atomic level can help us develop potential therapeutics that prevent them from functioning.

What inspired you to pursue your program?

I’ve always had a fascination of how proteins work together to accomplish so many complicated tasks, with the disruption of these molecular machines being the basis of disease. Understanding how proteins function – or how these functions can be improved, halted, or altered entirely – often comes down to studying what they look like using the methods encompassed by Structural Biology. What inspired me was having the opportunity to become an expert in such a pivotal field, and be able to bring forth change in therapeutic discovery and development.

What is one piece of advice you would give a new grad student?

Get involved with your GSA, join committees, help out with fundraisers, build your community! Having a community is so important for those tough days in the lab where nothing seems to work. Just walking down the hallway and having someone say ‘good morning!’ can really turn your day around.

Most memorable part of your graduate student experience?

My most memorable part of my graduate student experience was being a part of Science World’s annual Girls and STEAM event. I had an amazing opportunity to help design and facilitate a workshop directed towards young girls interested in science. Improving visibility of women in science and empowering young girls to pursue their interests in science has always been very important to me.

What is your favourite non-academic activity?

This one is probably overused – but hiking! Getting into the mountains and experiencing nature is a great way to unwind and discover new things.