Oct. 23, 2019

Keeping company with giants: Killam Laureate pursues opportunity to present research to Nobel Laureates

Immunology PhD candidate Ania Bogoslowski adds Killam scholarship to growing list of accolades

Winning a major graduate scholarship takes persistence, determination and above all, a genuine passion for academic inquiry. Ania Bogoslowski, a 2019 Killam Laureate, has all of these qualities in spades.

A doctoral candidate in immunology, Bogoslowski is one of five University of Calgary graduate students to win the prestigious Killam scholarship for 2019, valued at $36,000 per year for two years.

Reflecting on her journey to winning a Killam scholarship, Bogoslowski notes that a major award or recognition can open the way for other scholarships.

“I was surprised to win the Killam, after applying for awards each year during my program,” says Bogoslowski. “I think what might have made the difference is my poster presentation delivered to the 2018 Canadian Student Health Research Forum. Based on my presentation, I was one of two students named as a Lindau Nominee, allowing me to apply to present my research to a group of Nobel Laureates.”

Bogoslowski also won an award for best poster at the Canada-wide forum. She anticipates finding out in the next few months if she is selected to present her work at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

Both the Killam scholarship and the Lindau experience really validate what I’m doing. I’ve really had a great boost in confidence, and it tells me I’m on the right track.

As a Calgary high school student, Bogoslowski enjoyed physics and chemistry but discovered her true passion in biology. Her undergraduate degree in health science introduced her to the field of immunology, leading her to sharpen her focus on that discipline for her master’s program at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. She approached the University of Calgary’s Dr. Paul Kubes, PhD, for her doctoral work.

“Paul was working on neutrophils, but no one in his lab was exploring the relationship between neutrophils and lymph nodes,” says Bogoslowski. “He was excited to have someone working in this area, which is not well understood.” As part of the Kubes lab, Bogolowski has access to a multi-photon microscope, which gives her the ability to create highly targeted and detailed images of neutrophils at work in live mice.

Neutrophils are white blood cells that play an important role in fighting off infection. They move quickly to destroy microbes and clean infected tissues. As Bogoslowski explains, some neutrophils exist in the lymph nodes at steady state or in other words, when the body is healthy and lymph nodes are not fighting infection.

Focusing specifically on how lymph nodes react to the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Bogoslowski is looking at how neutrophils move to the lymph nodes to help limit the spread of infection.

“If a Staphylococcus aureus infection spreads to the blood, mortality is very high around 40 per cent,” says Bogoslowski. “The lymph nodes play an important role in preventing the spread of infection. When an area of skin is infected, there are corresponding lymph nodes that will help fight that infection. Neutrophils travel to the lymph node to increase resistance to infection. If those neutrophils are blocked for some reason, the infection can spread more quickly and easily.”

Bogoslowski’s research will help inform understanding and treatment of infection in patients who are at higher risk because of compromised immunity brought on by other conditions like cancer.

The Killam scholarship will support Bogoslowski as she pursues research-related activities, including travel to conferences and speaking opportunities.

Working in Kubes’ lab has fueled Bogoslowski’s passion for research. After completing her doctoral program later this year, she plans to start a postdoctoral position at the University of British Columbia. In the long term, she hopes to continue her research in an academic setting.

“Once again, our Killam Laureates represent the phenomenal quality of graduate research at the University of Calgary,” says Dr. Robin Yates, interim vice-provost and dean of graduate studies. “Our institution is at the forefront of research into solutions for major social and scientific challenges. Graduate students are at the very heart of that mission, and the support of the Killam Trusts is vital to the success of our best and brightest.”

The Killam Trusts were established in the memory of Izaak Walton Killam by his wife, Dorothy J. Killam. Their primary purpose is to support advanced education and research at five Canadian universities, including the University of Calgary.