SMU Science student finds big opportunities in Australia via MITACS grant

Kaitlyn Blatt-Janmaat, 4th year science student and MITACS grant recipient.

Kaitlyn Blatt-Janmaat, 4th year science student and MITACS grant recipient.

When a student completing the last semester of her BSc takes two required classes and two just for fun —and one of the “fun” classes is Advanced Organic Synthesis—you know she has big plans for her academic career. (The other fun course? Biology of Cannabis!)

Kaitlyn Blatt-Janmaat, who will graduate from Saint Mary’s in May with a Bachelor of Science with an Honours in Chemistry and a major in Biology, hopes to head to either New Zealand or Australia to start working on her Ph.D.

She has just returned to Halifax from a stint at the Monash Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) on the first-ever MITACS Globalinks Grant awarded to a Saint Mary’s student.

Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for 19 years. Their Globalinks Grants provide funding for senior undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows to conduct research projects at universities overseas.

 At the prestigious university in Melbourne, Australia she worked under the supervision of Dr. Peter Scammells; she was the sixth undergraduate student from Saint Mary’s professor Dr. Rob Singer’s research group to go to this lab. Four have since earned their PhDs and the fifth is currently working towards his with Dr. Scammells.

“The students’ experiences working at one of the world’s top pharmaceutical sciences faculties at Monash University in Melbourne have been invaluable in launching their scientific careers,” said Dr. Singer.

“Aside from the obvious benefits of going to Australia during the colder months here in Canada, Kaitlyn has gained excellent experience in medicinal chemistry as part of a world class research group, that supplement her experiences here at SMU.”

Blatt-Janmaat, originally from Wolfville, N.S., explained that her time at Monash allowed her to experience pharmecutical synthesis. The work done by the team could eventually lead to better drugs to treat heart arrhythmias.

“The project was also starting to utilize computational models which gave me some exposure to their use in pharmaceutical design. Doing this exchange has also piqued my interest in medicinal chemistry, to the point of strongly considering a PhD in the area.”

Her accomplishments include working as a research assistant, chemistry teaching assistant, lab demonstrator, course marker, and peer mentor. She already has a long list of awards for her undergraduate work including three NSERC-USRA awards, CSC Award for Best Poster in Biological/Medicinal Chemistry and Best Overall Undergraduate Presentation, and she has two publications in preparation for submission.

“She has all the tools and academic preparation to be highly successful,” said Dr. Singer.

Submitted by Danielle Boudreau, Faculty of Science