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Unveiling the Path of Discovery: A Journey from Postdoctoral Fellow to Assistant Professor

Elena Kuzmin, Ph.D., has blazed a remarkable trail in the world of molecular oncology and human cancer genetics. Once a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute (GCI), she is now leading her own research group as a Principal Investigator to understand the complex genetic intricacies of cancer.

Elena completed her postdoctoral research under the supervision of Prof. Morag Park at the GCI. She was tasked with study the mysteries of chromosome arm deletions in triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer. It was here that her fascination with the genetic underpinnings of cancer ignited, and her mission to untangle the complex relationships in cancer genetics.

Fast forward to today, Elena is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Concordia University, where she received the Gairdner Early Career Investigator award for her research in integrative synthetic and functional genomics this year. She is a member of multiple prestigious research centers, including the Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology and the Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics. Her affiliation with the Department of Human Genetics and the Goodman Cancer Institute at McGill University showcases her enduring connection to her roots and a collaborative mind.

Elena's current research endeavors span various themes, with a common thread of mapping complex genetic interaction networks. “We pursue several research themes focusing on mapping complex genetic interaction networks, from genetic network rewiring between distantly related yeast species, conditional functional redundancy and divergence of duplicated genes and complex genetic interaction network of large copy number variants in cancer,” shares Elena.

Elena's unwavering dedication to cancer research is deeply personal. Having witnessed the impact of cancer on both a global scale and within her own family, her mission is clear: to expand our understanding of human genetics and contribute to the well-being of cancer patients. Reflecting on her path from postdoctoral fellow to assistant professor, Elena credits her time at the GCI for being instrumental in shaping her expertise in molecular oncology. The skills and knowledge Elena acquired during her training at the GCI have been invaluable in her current role as a PI. She acknowledges that much of what she knows about cancer research and her ability to navigate the intricate genetic landscapes of breast cancer stems from her formative years at the GCI. Her training at the GCI alongside world-renowned scientists in state-of-the-art facilities was a pivotal stepping stone in her journey toward becoming a faculty member.

For current trainees who aspire to follow in Elena's footsteps, her advice is rooted in experience: “I would advise students to not shy away from doing their doctoral training using model organisms and their postdoctoral work in human cancer genetics. Developing a strong foundation early in your training is important as you progress to becoming an independent researcher.”

Elena’s journey, from a postdoctoral fellow at the GCI to an Assistant Professor at Concordia University, exemplifies the power of curiosity, commitment, and an unrelenting pursuit of knowledge. Her research is shedding light on the intricate genetic landscape of cancer, offering hope and insights to patients and scientists alike.

Find out more information about the Kuzmin Lab, Elena’s publications, and connect with her on Twitter (@Elenak35) and LinkedIn here.

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