School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Making connections – Meet Elham Ghorbanpour

PhD candidate, Pathology and Molecular Medicine  

by Phil Gaudreau, June 2020

Amy Cleaver

As many as 370,000 Canadians may suffer from von Willebrand disease (VWD), and many may go their whole lives without knowing it.

VWD is a bleeding disorder that affects the ability of blood to clot, which can make surgeries and injuries more severe for those who have VWD. While the disease can be managed through some medications, it cannot be cured. Scientists are also still working to fully understand what causes it.

However, researchers like Elham Ghorbanpour and her supervisor, Dr. David Lillicrap, are working to understand the genetics of the world’s most common bleeding disorder.

Elham is a second-year PhD candidate from Iran. After completing an undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology in University of Tehran, she wanted to hone her clinical skills and took a masters in biochemistry in Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Still, her studies left her wanting to learn more. So, she looked up the top labs in the world in her field and came upon the Clinical and Molecular Hemostasis Research Group at Queen’s University and Kingston General Hospital.

“I developed an interest in disease pathobiology and decided to apply for a PhD position,” she says. “There are many more research opportunities in Canada, and this position offers me the chance to channel my research into a clinical setting to translate my knowledge and experience.”

Coming from Tehran, population 10 million, Elham has had an adjustment period as she settles in Kingston. However, she enjoys the much smaller setting and says the Iranian graduate students at Queen’s form a tight knit community.

“Coming to Canada has been a great experience career wise, research wise, and personally,” she says. “It has broadened my perspective. It was a big transition and a challenging adjustment but worth experiencing. Even simple things are opportunities to learn, whether I am in the lab or experiencing a different lifestyle.”

During her time in Kingston, when she is not in the lab, Elham enjoys reading, swimming, exercise, and spending time with friends. She is also supervising a fourth-year Queen’s student who is completing a research project.

“It’s interesting being on the other side,” Elham says. “She comes to me seeking advice and wanting to learn how to design experiments and understand how research works. It has made me a better student.”

Her graduate studies experience in Canada has helped her to work towards another goal she has realized since she arrived.

“There is a huge gap between the Middle East and Canada in terms of research and resources,” she says. “I want to be a part of bridging that gap.”

To learn more about graduate programs in pathology, visit the School of Graduate Studies’ website.