Amy Wong, PhD, The Hospital for Sick Children

Plotting a path to career success

Not every PhD graduate will – or wants to – establish a lab or take up a career position at an academic institution. It’s known to be a path with only a small – as low as three percent – chance of success. But Dr. Amy Wong knew very early that research was the work she was best suited to, and encouragement from mentors helped solidify that choice. So, she thought strategically about the kind of training and experience she would need to achieve one of those rare placements.

This prompted her to study under the guidance of two leading Toronto researchers, Drs. Janet Rossant and James Ellis. Each had expertise in areas Wong identified as necessary to further her interest in lung diseases – particularly the development of cystic fibrosis, the leading cause of respiratory-related deaths in children.

Through her association with these two labs, Wong identified a method to produce airway epithelial cells (the protective cells lining our entire airway) that exhibit the genetic mutation found in cystic fibrosis, so that the disease could be better understood. She was also introduced to the Stem Cell Network and its rich variety of skills development opportunities. She took part in everything she could, from technical lab training to soft skills workshops to networking events. Her engagement led to an appointment as Chair of SCN’s Trainee Communications Committee. These experiences proved to be invaluable additions to her CV, giving Wong an advantage. She was then able to leverage these experiences into the position she attained at The Hospital for Sick Children in early 2019.

“I’m hugely thankful to the Stem Cell Network for the opportunities it offers to young investigators. SCN helped me gain the skills and confidence I needed to achieve my goal of running my own lab.”

Now, she is busy turning that success into new research to further her quest of better treatments for lung diseases, and providing opportunities for a new cohort of young researchers who will look to her for guidance.