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Jessica Lam

Lab Manager (Infectious Disease Research)
University of Toronto
Jessica Lam au travail dans son laboratoire
Jessica Lam au travail dans son laboratoire
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Jessica Lam is a Lab Manager (Infectious Disease Research) at the University of Toronto.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Brampton, Ontario

I now live in: Toronto , Ontario

I completed my training/education at: I received my Bachelor of (Honors) Science from Ontario Tech University (formally UOIT) where I completed a major in Forensic Science and double minor in Biological Science and Chemistry. I then went on to pursue my Master of Science at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus) and my area of research focused on Molecular Genetics.

What I do at work

I am a lab manager for an academic research laboratory. There are two main parts to my job: the administrative work and the research. In my administrative role, I oversee daily operations of the lab. I make sure that everyone follows the biosafety rules and regulations. I also make sure laboratory equipment is in good working order. I set the general laboratory protocols and manage the animal-relevant research. Beyond the administrative tasks, I am also responsible for doing research for projects in which I am involved. When necessary, I provide technical support and project guidance to others in the lab.

My research is on studying two parts of how bacteria and their hosts interact. The first part looks at how bacteria genetically adapt to survive in a host. The other looks at what kind of host immune response is stimulated to fight bacterial infection. Investigating these questions will broaden our understanding of host-pathogen interactions. It will also help in the development of treatments and vaccinations. Some of the bacteria I work with are very dangerous. To protect myself, I perform experiments in a Biosafety Cabinet.

As a researcher, I am always using scientific methods. This involves asking questions, creating a hypothesis, conducting experiments, and analyzing my results. I also use the critical thinking skills I have developed through my STEM courses. These skills help me to interpret results, review articles, and participate in scientific discussions.

My career path is

When I was high school, I was interested in both Law and Science. When I started to think about post-secondary, I explored both science programs and law related programs including criminology and political science. I found the Forensic Science program at Ontario Tech University (formally UOIT). To me it was the perfect balance between science and law. As I was going through my degree, I realized that I enjoyed the biology and research more than the law aspects of the program.  This got me to trun my attention to science instead of the law.

After I finished my undergraduate degree, I started to look into graduate programs. I wanted to focus on biology research. I decided on the University of Toronto for my graduate degree. During my graduate program, I developed a new interest in infectious diseases. I also enjoyed learning about mouse modeling and microbial genomics. It was challenging to make this jump from Forensic Science. For one thing, I had to learn how to work with mice in my research. I also had to learn a new set of lab skills. Although it was difficult, I saw the skills my lab mates and fellow researchers had developed. This drove me to work harder. This helped motivate me in my research and helped me succeed in my graduate program and now, in my career.

I am motivated by

One of the most exciting parts of my work is doing scientific research. My research involves studying bacteria that can infect various different sites of the body (respiratory tract, genital tract etc.). The idea that these microscopic organisms are so small but can have such a negative impact on human health is fascinating! The fact that some microbes can harm us, while others are beneficial, is also very interesting.

I also like that every day is different! Depending on what I am doing, day-to-day experiments are never dull. I love that my research helps contribute to vaccine development and increasing knowledge in the field.  

How I affect peoples’ lives

I work with graduate students and young researchers. At the start, students need assistance with project direction. They may also need technical support and experimental design. Eventually they are able to work on their own. The best part of my job is seeing the spark of excitement when new students start doing research and watching their progress as they develop as scientists.

Outside of work I

Outside of work, I play indoor court volleyball on various leagues throughout Toronto. I also enjoy singing and baking on my time off. Right now, I am binge watching Dawson’s Creek and the Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

My advice to others

My biggest piece of advice would be to follow your interests with an open mind and try everything – you never know if you’ll enjoy it until you try it! If you are given the chance, volunteer in a lab or join a program that has coop/internship opportunities. Getting hands on experience is extremely important. Lastly, it’s ok to change your mind. My academic journey was not linear and most people’s aren’t!

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Drama
  • Foods and Nutrition
  • History
  • Music
  • Physical Education/Health
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Law
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Liked helping people
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Played on a sports team
  • Was motivated by success
  • Liked being given specific instructions
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
  • Learned best “by doing”
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Liked to design or build things

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