Dr. Bernadette Ardelli’s science seminar titled “The Diversification of My Research Portfolio: Minimizing Risks and Maximizing Returns” was a delicate balance between Dr. Ardelli’s research questions, methods, and results as well as the evolution of both research and researcher through her academic journey. The presentation outlined not only Dr. Ardelli’s insights into drug resistance in parasitic nematodes (worms), but also lessons learned regarding how research is carried out in a university setting.
Dr. Ardelli demonstrated how her research taught her about “undergraduate power” – that although they may lack in technical experience and be restricted by their course load, a significant contribution can be made by a motivated undergraduate student.
The seminar also shed light on some of the politics of doing research associated with big pharmaceutical companies. Her research aimed to first discover if the parasites had developed resistance to the drug that was widely available on the international market. Later she would compare the resistance and mechanisms of two drugs manufactured by competing companies.
As a student or enthusiastic onlooker, it is easy to get wrapped up in the big research questions. Dr. Ardelli reminded us of the importance to ground ambitions in reality – with minimal risk and maximum output. Some factors that required consideration for her program included the necessity of working mainly with undergraduates, inability to use human subjects or clinical trials due to extensive ethics approval, and accessibility of samples. This, as well as the need to differentiate her research identity from that of her accomplished supervisors, led to her current area of study in understanding how drugs work. This led Dr. Ardelli down a research path that now focuses on the relationship between the host and the parasite in the development of drug resistance.
For the technical stuff or more information, you’ll have to speak to the “worm whisperer” herself.