School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

The Transference of our Thinking – Meet Emily Lind 

MSc student in Biomedical & Molecular Sciences 

by Mary Anne Schoenhardt, April 2022

Emily Lind

An undergraduate degree in religious studies isn’t the most common background for people pursuing their master’s in biochemistry, but for Emily Lind, it provided her with an ability to think critically about why people do things and how we can better communicate. With bachelor’s degrees in both religious studies and biochemistry, Emily has gone on to do her master’s at Queen’s studying antifreeze proteins in fish.

On top of completing her degree, Emily has a large number of ‘side hustles’, including as the marketing director for the Science to Business Network, the head director of Science Quest (a science and engineering camp in Kingston), as the managing editor for The Canadian Science Fair Journal, and doing contract work in science communication. “I’ve diversified my learning experience, and it’s been complimentary in many ways” she says. “The soft skills I employ in both [my side-hustles and my master’s] are mutually beneficial”.

Emily’s background provides experience that, within science, lots of other people don’t have. It was only recently that she realized her ability to communicate can be a marketable skill. “All of my different side hustles, and also my experience with my master’s degree have led me to realize that I do have something to contribute to the sciences, but it’s actually more in the communication of the sciences than doing the research itself.”

That being said, the research that Emily is contributing to biochemistry certainly is significant. She works with Dr. Peter Davies in Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, who along with research associate Dr. Laurie Graham, suggested lateral gene transfer as the mechanism for nearly identical anti-freeze proteins existing in two distantly related fish species. Lateral gene transfer is a known mechanism for bacteria to acquire new genetic material, but this was the fist time evidence of it had been found in vertebrates. “If lateral gene transfer is happening, more so than what we’ve already proposed, it flies in the face of the arguments against GMOs” says Emily. If a species can acquire genes from another species in their natural environment, then what’s the issue with scientists doing it in a lab? “It also dramatically shifts how we think about evolution”, she adds. “Instead of it being this linear progression, you have essentially Pokémon card trading going on with genes”.

The idea of lateral gene transfer occurring in vertebrates was suggested by Drs. Graham and Davies almost twenty years ago, but only recently has it been more widely accepted and picked up by the media. Emily described the research process as being very data heavy, which she sees as a challenge in trying to communicate it. In her own work, Emily uses techniques such as mammalian and insect cell culturing, protein modelling, and bioinformatics, all of which are foundational skills in biochemical research. An understanding of these technical aspects of research, along with seeing how long it took for the ideas her lab was proposing to gain traction, have given her a strong appreciation for how difficult it can be to get the word out.

After her degree, Emily wants to continue to work in science communication, saying that “Research gets stuck at benches too often, and it needs ways to get out.” She doesn’t yet know whether that will be as a communications specialist or a manager, but it’s clear that the projects she’s working on at Queen’s and in the greater Kingston community would provide her with a strong background for whichever she sets her mind to!

For more details on the Biomedical & Molecular Science program visit the DBMS website.