Donors make a Difference: Elise Graulich, Victor KS Lui Studentship Recipient

Pursuing research and graduate studies demands dedication, resilience, and financial support. Elise Graulich, a first-year PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry at the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute (GCI), is the 2023 recipient of the Dr. Victor KS Lui Studentship. Elise shares the impact of her research, her aspirations for her career, and the profound impact this scholarship will have on her journey.

Elise's PhD project is supervised by Dr. Sidong Huang, and centers on unraveling the mysteries of SMARCA4/2-deficient cancer cells to understand how to sensitize them to treatment. Her work is particularly focused on understanding the impact of the combined loss of SMARCA4 and SMARCA2 in aggressive malignancies, such as non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) and small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type (SCCOHT). The Huang lab has already made significant strides by discovering that alanine supplementation can selectively eliminate such cell types. Currently, Elise is working to identify new drugs that synergize with alanine, enhancing its potential as a targeted therapy.

The GCI's recognition through the Dr. Victor KS Lui Studentship is not just financial support for Elise; it is a vote of confidence that fuels her passion for cancer research. "In this field of study, it is easy to sometimes have doubts or feel overwhelmed, but knowing that I have the support and trust of the GCI is beyond encouraging," she shares. It goes beyond financial support; it signifies belief and validation, reinforcing Elise's determination to make a difference.

Elise envisions a long-term career in cancer research, driven by the desire to understand the mechanisms that transform normal cells into cancerous ones. Her goal is to contribute to the development of novel drugs for cancer treatment. Expressing gratitude for her studentship and the helping hand it gives her career, she states, "Obtaining a GCI scholarship is a big achievement for my career, and I am forever grateful for it."

Looking ahead, Elise sees herself working in a Montreal-based company dedicated to developing groundbreaking cancer treatments. Despite having years left in her PhD journey, Elise is unwavering in her commitment to making a tangible impact in the fight against cancer. Beyond her professional goals, she aspires to utilize her knowledge to educate the general public and cancer patients, bridging the gap between scientific advancements and broader understanding.

Elise's journey has not been without its challenges. Originally from Switzerland, where student fees are considerably lower, she faced the daunting task of financing her move to Canada for her PhD. Undeterred, Elise took on multiple side jobs during her Master's, from teaching assistant roles to weekend employment in various companies. Her determination and work ethic underscore the challenges many face in securing funding for their academic pursuits.

As Elise delves deeper into her research, she embodies the spirit of young researchers at the GCI striving to unravel the complexities of cancer and make a difference in the lives of those affected by the disease.

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