Alexie Ouellette conducting research with the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute
Mount Allison University honours biology student Alexie Ouellette was recently honoured with the Science Atlantic Communication Award at the organization’s annual biology conference held virtually earlier this year.
Ouellette presented on her current honours research being done at Mount Allison in partnership with the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute (ACRI), based in Moncton NB. Her research presentation, titled, Determining biological function of miRNA identified from PDAC patient plasma using an in vitro model, looks at identifying biomarkers for pancreatic cancer in blood samples, which could help with earlier cancer diagnosis in the future using a new diagnostic tool called liquid biopsy.
“One of the biggest challenges with pancreatic cancer is it’s almost always diagnosed late and that’s why the mortality rate is so high and prognosis so poor. If we can identify multiple miRNAs, or biomarkers, we can then determine how they affect the progression of the cancer and potentially develop treatments that target those biomarkers or the pathways they affect,” explains Ouellette. “I have learned so much from this work and feel fortunate to have had this kind of research opportunity as an undergraduate student.”
The Science Atlantic communications prize is the only one of its kind for the regional conference, with attendees voting on who they feel best communicated on their science topic.
Mount Allison biochemistry professor Dr. Jillian Rourke is Ouellette’s research co-supervisor, along with Dr. Jeremy Roy from the ACRI, where Ouellette worked as a student summer researcher in 2019 and 2020.
“Alexie’s passion for advancing cancer research and improving the lives of cancer patients was evident from day one,” says Rourke. “She approaches her work with an infectious can-do attitude, always pushing through challenges with a smile. I have no doubt that she will continue to make great contributions to the field.”
Outside her studies, Ouellette serves as the Vice-President, Cancer Campaigns with Health Care Outreach student society and communications coordinator for Mount Allison’s First-Gen Den. She will graduate from Mount Allison this spring with an honours degree in biology, minor in biochemistry. Following graduation, she will be attending medical school at Dalhousie University.