Science Professional Profile: Ana Pilar

Ana Pilar is a biologist at Health Canada

What is your profession?

I am a biologist at Health Canada.

Which field of science do you use in your work?

Microbiology and molecular biology

What is exciting about your work? What is your greatest achievement so far?

I work with a research team made up of microbiologists, physicists, chemists, engineers, and computer programmers. Together we design and develop cool gadgets that rapidly detect bacterial pathogens in food. If we can detect the pathogens faster, we will be able to prevent people from eating contaminated food and becoming ill. My greatest achievement so far is contributing to various research projects that have an impact on improving food safety in Canada.

What's the most challenging or difficult project you've ever handled or solved?

When I was doing graduate studies, my research project was very challenging. I studied proteins that are found in a human parasite but these proteins were difficult to obtain in pure form so it was challenging to use them in molecular assays. However, I learned a lot of laboratory techniques and problem-solving skills while working with the proteins. I also learned to be more patient and resourceful.

Tell us about your career path. What made you pursue this career?

I started out as a biology student because I wanted to become a medical doctor. I did my thesis on the classification of birds during my last undergraduate year and realized that I liked doing research so I decided to pursue graduate studies instead. I came to Canada to study parasites and later on became interested in finding out how harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and pathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli), cause diseases in humans. Microbes are truly fascinating and they play a huge part in our lives.

Do you have any tips/advice for aspiring scientists/engineers?

Having a mentor who is knowledgeable, supportive, and gives you opportunities to develop as a scientist is very important. I would not be where I am now without the advice and guidance of my mentors so once you find a field of science that you are interested in, talk to your teacher or network with researchers who can help you navigate a scientific career.

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