Skip to main content

Fizza Fatima

Research Assistant
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
photo de Fizza Fatima à son bureau
photo de Fizza Fatima à son bureau
Sector
Location Now
Education Pathway

Fizza Fatima is a Research Assistant for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan, a city known for its agriculture and textile industries. My parents moved often when I was young, so I spent parts of my childhood in Pakistan as well as Mississauga, ON

I now live in:  I now live in Ottawa, ON

I completed my training/education at: I completed my primary school in Mississauga, but I did my high school and undergraduate studies in Lahore, Pakistan.

What I do at work

I work at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  I study wheat and its wild relatives by using a series of bioinformatics tools. Bioinformatics uses computer programs and mathematical models to solve complex biological problems. I work with scientists across Canada. We are trying to identify new genes for important traits, such as disease resistance, in wheat. We believe that the wild relatives of wheat have useful traits that are not present in the wheat we grow for food. Identifying the genes responsible for these traits will allow us to transfer them to modern wheat. This will create resilient, high-yielding varieties that can help feed the rising population of the world.

The majority of my work involves data analysis. I use different software and mathematical models to study the gene sequence of the different varieties of wheat. I use genetic data to study the relationship between different species of wheat and its relatives. I combine the genetic data with different traits, such as leaf rust resistance, to find news genes that may be responsible for this resistance. The work I do is all STEM-based. I combine biology with engineering and mathematics to decode important information about the wheat we eat and all its relatives.

My career path is

Since high school, I was drawn to biology. I wanted to learn more so decided to study at university. During my undergraduate program, I was introduced to the field of bioinformatics. This opened a new area of interest. So, I enrolled in extra computational biology courses to learn skills. I also joined a research lab to practice these skills. I did a summer internship in a research lab at my university. For my undergraduate research, I worked on the gene-regulatory network of pancreatic cancer to understand cancer progression and treatment. Over the years, my work has taught me many transferable bioinformatics skills. These skills apply to fields from agriculture to medicine.

I am motivated by

What attracted me to research is its unpredictable nature. The small day-to-day challenges build up your endurance and problem-solving skills - there is always something new to learn. During my undergrad, going to the hospital and discussing patient-specific drug treatment protocols with doctors made me realize the importance of my work. Similarly, for agriculture, meeting wheat breeders and local farmers at international conferences helped me understand the gap between researchers, producers and consumers.

One of my favourite things is to make my data understandable to others. I enjoy spending my time making fancy colourful graphs and figures to present my results. A single graphic has the power to summarize months of research. I take pleasure in detailing and perfecting them. Besides, the mere fact that I am studying something that is used to make cakes, cookies, and of course, pizza makes me feel excited (and hungry).

How I affect people’s lives

The work we do in my research group may help to improve the wheat we grow for food. Up to now, I have used genetics to show the relationship between 26 different species of wheat. I have also identified over 30 genes that may contribute to leaf rust resistance. The goal is to provide insights to farmers and breeders to help guide the production of locally adapted superior wheat. I am very hopeful about the outcomes of the research. My life motto has now become “Wheat-Can-Do-It”.

Outside of work I

Outside of work, I like to do different activities with my family and friends. I really enjoy kayaking and hiking. I am a big foodie, so I’m always finding new places to try. Sometimes I also like to play video games - Pokémon is my favourite.

My advice to others

Don’t give up. I am a big believer in George Moore’s words: “a winner is just a loser who tried one more time”. Research can be challenging and it may feel like what you are doing is only important to you. But, you have to remember that there is a bigger picture and what you do can really make a worldly impact.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Geography
  • History
  • Science
  • Technology
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Wanted to be in charge
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Was really creative
  • Always threw the best parties
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Learned best “by doing”

Explore Career Profiles

  • Yetong Dong headshot wearing lab coat

    Yetong Dong

    Research Assistant/Graduate Student

    I am studying to become a scientific researcher.
  • Andrea Goldson-Barnaby headshot

    Andrea Goldson-Barnaby

    Head of the Food division

    I teach and do research on the topics of Food Chemistry and Food Processing.
  • Jo-Anne McArthur photographing hog in pen.

    Jo-Anne McArthur (she/her)

    Photojournalist, Founder

    I operate a non-profit media organization that shows the lives of animals in pictures.
  • Adrienne Ethier headshot

    Adrienne Ethier

    Environmental Risk Assessment Specialist

    I am responsible for evaluating potential exposure risks to people and the environment near nuclear facilities and mines.
  • Alyssa Smith headshot

    Alyssa Smith

    PhD Candidate in Cognitive Science

    I am researching how people’s attention is affected by factors in everyday life such as taking medications.
  • Karen Fleming at work, wearing mask and virtual reality goggles.

    Karen Fleming (she/her)

    Simulation Educator

    I help create education and training experiences that contribute to safer environments for patients.
  • Dr. Marcia Anderson headshot

    Marcia Anderson (she/her)

    Physician and Vice-Dean Indigenous Health, Social Justice and Anti-Racism

    I am a medical doctor and I work to help create culturally safe healthcare that is free of racism.
  • Luke Humphries working with biological sample in his lab.

    Luke Humphries

    Director, Process Development

    I lead teams of scientists to discover and develop the best ways of making drug molecules for clinical trials.
  • Sydney Robinson headshot taken outside with green leaves in background

    Sydney Robinson

    Entrepreneur

    I am an entrepreneur who used my engineering background to design a device that helps amputees do daily tasks in a more painless manner.
  • Allison Guitor in her lab at McMaster University.

    Allison Guitor

    PhD student (antibiotic resistance)

    I study antibiotic resistance, which is what makes bacteria able to live in the presence of antibiotics.
  • Dr. Harpreet Kochhar at standup computer station in his office.

    Dr. Harpreet Kochhar

    President

    I am the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
  • Isabel Hilgendag in the fileld collecting samples in the Arctic

    Isabel Hilgendag

    MSc Student (Biology)

    I look for heavy metals, such as mercury, in Arctic marine animals, to ensure they are safe to eat.
  • Manpreet Kaur in her lab

    Manpreet Kaur (She/Her)

    Postdoctoral Fellow

    I work on research projects to discover drugs to treat infectious diseases.
  • Ryan Mitchell headshot

    Ryan Mitchell

    Hatchery Supervisor

    My job is to supervise the daily workflow at our salmon hatchery.
  • Daryl Lawes

    Daryl Lawes

    Environment Manager

    I am responsible for all aspects of environmental protection, performance, and regulatory compliance for Seaspan Shipyards.
  • Portrait de Corie Houldsworth

    Corie Houldsworth

    Inspector

    I perform inspections of worksites where radiation is used, stored or transported.
  • Terra MacDonald at aquaculture site holding farmed salmon.

    Terra MacDonald (she/her)

    Veterinarian and Fish Health Manager

    As the veterinarian for Mowi Canada West, I care for the salmon at all life stages, from egg to harvest.
  • Isha Berry Headshot

    Isha Berry

    Epidemiologist

    I look for patterns in disease outbreaks and health outcomes in populations across the world.
  • Clair Poulin hiking near wetland area

    Claire Poulin

    Zebrafish Researcher/Pre-Med Student

    I am researching how Zebrafish respond to lower oxygen levels in their environment.
  • Jasmin Chahal headshot

    Jasmin Chahal

    Assistant Professor

    I teach in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at McGill University.