A brief biography: Marnie Newell’s journey began in 2003 when she was hired as a research technician at the University of Alberta, laying the foundation of her current career trajectory. She is a mother of two school-aged children who inspired her to pursue graduate education. It is her goal to become an independent researcher at a Canadian University. She is very passionate about her project and the potential impact it could have for women with breast cancer. In her Ph.D. program, she has published a review on DHA and cancer cell cycle progression, three research articles on the efficacy of DHA in conjunction with chemotherapy in two different animal models and a protocol paper detailing her final Ph.D. objective: a randomized controlled trial. She is a mentor for both undergraduate and junior graduate students in her department. She enjoys teaching and has been fortunate to take part in the 3-Minute Thesis speaking competition. On a personal note, she volunteers at the local Food Bank, with youth sports in Edmonton and at a local elementary school. In her spare time, she enjoys running and gardening.
1) Could you please introduce yourself to the CAOCS?
I am a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta. I am a proud mother of two kids, so if I am not in the lab, I can be found at the pool or the hockey rink!
2) Could you tell us about your current research and how you got started in this field?
I began my journey working as a lab technician in my current lab. After 10 years in this position, I made the decision to return to school and am very fortunate that I could remain in the lab that is my second home! My project focuses on breast cancer and the role of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in improving treatment outcomes. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in females in Canada, and DHA has been shown to reduce the growth of breast cancer cells in preclinical models. Yet, the specific mechanisms of action of DHA in conjunction with chemotherapy are unclear. I have an exciting project that has run the spectrum from bench to bedside: I started in a tissue culture model and from there moved to two different animal models where we determined some of the mechanisms responsible for DHA’s anticancer effects. My final project is a clinical trial where women with newly diagnosed breast cancer are receiving DHA or a placebo throughout their chemotherapy. We predict that the DHA will have a beneficial effect on reducing markers of tumor proliferation, resulting in a beneficial immune response and improve overall patient outcomes. Stay tuned for the results!
3) You had a number of presentations in AOCS annual meetings, could you share a few tips on improving communication skills with other CAOCS student members?
I love my project and I am always excited to chat about it to anyone that will listen. My number one tip comes from that: we are all fortunate to be researching something that we are passionate about, so show your enthusiasm. No one knows your project better than you do, so take every opportunity you can to present and share your knowledge with a supportive community. Also, embrace questions from the audience; it is a great opportunity to think of your project in a different way when people ask you a variety of questions. Finally, practice, practice and more practice. I usually present to my lab group more than once before a big presentation so I can get all their feedback and suggestions. It is invaluable.
4) You have won several AOCS awards, do you have any words of wisdom for other CAOCS student members?
AOCS has been so supportive of me during my time as a student and I am very grateful for the awards I have received. I would say to any student – never get discouraged. It is a long road to the finish line, so keep applying for scholarships and awards. Every application you make will be stronger than the last, and always pay attention to the details! Start your application early and revise often. Good luck!