Graduate Spotlight: Kaj Sullivan

Kaj Sullivan, Grad student spotlight

Hometown: Toronto, ON

Graduate Research Focus:

My research investigates the isotopic fractionation of transition metals in healthy- and disease-state humans. Specifically, I am researching whether a zinc isotopic response accompanies a well-documented decrease in the zinc concentration of serum in the hours following the consumption of a meal. I am also investigating whether the copper and zinc isotopic composition of serum in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients is shifted relative to a control group due to amyloid plaque formation (characteristic pathology of AD), with the purpose of investigating their potential as biological markers of the disease.

Why I chose to do graduate studies:

I chose to do graduate studies because I found that while I learned an incredible amount during my undergraduate career at Queen’s, there was still so much that I did not know. While the learning never stops, even in a professional setting, there is much more freedom in graduate school to direct it towards your own interests.

Why Queen’s?:

I had a great experience working from second to fourth year at the Queen’s Facility for Isotope research (QFIR) with the late Dr. Kurt Kyser. Dr. Kyser, along with his partner, April Vuletich, the lab manager of QFIR, created an excellent learning environment where you were encouraged to ask questions and they were willing to pass on as much knowledge as you were willing to absorb. After an incredible undergraduate experience working at QFIR, I was inspired to stay and do graduate work with Dr. Kyser. What made the opportunity especially appealing was that he gave me the freedom to explore my own research ideas and did not simply assign a project.

What do you do in your spare time?:

In my spare time, I teach and play the highland bagpipes with the Rob Roy Pipe Band of Kingston, Ontario. I am also an avid squash and badminton player.

What’s next for you?:

Lots of work, I just began my PhD in April 2017. I’m really enjoying myself and if all goes well, I’d like to work with others who share similar research interests after completing my PhD and eventually teach.