“I can’t lie,” says a tanned Rebecca Pike, just recently returned from a research trip to Florida and the Bahamas. “It is an incredible experience to be diving on reefs in the middle of paradise. But more than that, I love that I’m collecting my own samples that I’ll work on myself in the lab. From start to finish, it’s my project.”
Pike is one of UPEI’s eleven Innovation PEI Graduate and Post-doctoral Fellows. Her project is called Fungal and Bacterial Diversity and Natural Products Drug Discovery from Marine Gorgonian Corals and Sponges.
Her work isn’t all SCUBA gear and tropical weather. In the lab, Pike explores the microbial diversity within corals and sponges, and the bacteria that grow on them for production of natural products.
Pike works under the supervision of UPEI’s Dr. Russell Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Marine Natural Products, winner of the Premier’s Medal for Innovation, and CEO of Nautilus Biosciences Canada. His research group is developing sustainable methods of extracting pharmaceutical agents from marine organisms.
“After my undergrad, I spent some time working at a lab in Panama, doing very similar work on cyanobacteria. I was invited on a collection trip but wasn’t a yet certified diver. So, all of the samples I gathered on that trip were collected via snorkeling. I became certified in SCUBA diving at the end of that trip, which is why I was able to go on this collections trip in Florida and the Bahamas.”
After completing her undergraduate studies in Pennsylvania, Pike went searching for a school to complete her graduate studies. She found Dr. Kerr’s website at UPEI.
“And based on the fascinating research projects, I immediately knew it was the one. Plus, it’s a small school with a big lab. I couldn’t get this kind of personal attention or hands-on experience at a bigger university.”