Basic scientist Dr. Mary-Ellen Harper is “leading the way”

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“I try to lead by example and ignite a passion in my students to dig for creative solutions to scientific problems.”

– Dr. Mary-Ellen Harper

Performing research in basic science typically demands an intense focus at the bench. For one researcher, time spent away from the bench has also resulted in valuable learning opportunities for the students in her lab.

University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine professor Dr. Mary-Ellen Harper happens to be an expert in mammalian bioenergetics, but also in inspiring young scientists to follow in her trailblazing footsteps.

Dr. Harper is the director of MATRIX (Metabolomics Advanced Training and International Exchange), an NSERC-CREATE program launched to train the next generation of leaders for customized career paths in the field of metabolomics, bioenergetics and bioinformatics. She is confident the project will put uOttawa on the map in the burgeoning field of metabolomics and revolutionize the field in the coming years.

“Professors are key to the success of their lab’s benchwork, but they’re teachers and mentors, too,” explains Dr. Harper amidst her buzzing lab in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology. “I try to lead by example and ignite a passion in my students to dig for creative solutions to scientific problems.”

An alumna of uOttawa, Dr. Harper credits her alma mater with nurturing her skills as a leader, which she now pays forward to her own students.

“I’m honoured to play a role in equipping our uOttawa learners with the skills and values they need for the next steps in their careers in the biosciences,” says Dr. Harper, who is also the University Research Chair in Mitochondrial Bioenergetics.

Dr. Harper emphasizes that the rich, collaborative environment at the Faculty of Medicine and partnered hospitals and institutes has contributed to her successes in science, with her current work leading the way in the field of cellular energy. With her studies spanning isolated mitochondria to cell cultures to transgenic mice to clinical investigations, Dr. Harper continues to add to uOttawa’s growing reputation in translational research.

Having made a name for herself internationally, Dr. Harper is frequently called upon to lecture around the world, and her work continues to bring distinction to the University of Ottawa.

Ultimately, Harper says, success in science is built on a strong foundation of mentorship, a principle she puts into practice every day with her students.

“I really believe it’s the key to recruiting and retaining tomorrow’s biomedical scientists,” she says.

Dr. Mary-Ellen Harper.

Dr. Mary-Ellen Harper

Photo credit : Joanne Steventon


Some of the members of Dr. Harper’s lab team standing in a laboratory.

Some of the members of Dr. Harper’s lab team, left to right: Jian Ying Xuan; Rajaa Sebaa; Dr. David Patten; Dr. Mary-Ellen Harper; Dr. Chantal Pileggi; Gaganvir Singh Parmar; Nidhi Kuksal.

Photo credit : Joanne Steventon


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