by Robert Scalia
If it werent for tiny crustaceans and electro-luminescent polymers,
Travis Chalmers probably wouldnt be sitting pretty in McGill Universitys
I dont think I would have gone into research otherwise,
he said simply. I probably would have gotten out of science all
The 23-year-old, who managed to reap $11,000 in undergraduate grants at
Concordia, credits the Science College for opening his eyes to the thrill
of hands-on scientific research.
He still remembers his first research project in aquatic ecology under
Dr. Edward Malys supervision. They were studying the behaviour of
male and female copepods tiny crustaceans that outnumber insects
on our planet in the presence of a certain predator.
Chalmers would later dabble in organic chemistry, with the electroluminescent
polymers and gene expression in plants. This type of cross-stream exposure
led naturally to pharmacology, a field he affectionately describes as
a mishmash of biochemistry, psychology and molecular biology.
At McGill, Chalmers has shifted his attention to altering the gene expression
of rats with a new class of drugs called peptide nucleic acids.
Gene expression denotes the amount of specific proteins in a given cell.
In particular cases of schizophrenia, for example, it has been discovered
that certain dopamine-related proteins are more highly expressed. Using
these new drugs to decrease the expression of those proteins may alleviate
some of the symptoms for future sufferers.
Chalmers hopes to help develop such drugs in industry one day. He has
already decided to transfer into pharmacologys doctoral program
to ensure a research-based future.
Is human research the next logical step? Not quite, said Chalmers. He
doesnt want to face the ethical hurdles involved in studying protein
behaviour in the human brain. I really prefer basic research,
he said. Theres much more freedom there.