Published 19 June 2014

Faces – Young Scientist Profile: Meghan Azad

Science never sleeps. Especially not on Bavarian holidays. So here is a new issue of “Faces” featuring Meghan Azad from Canada.

About Faces: „Faces“ is a new series on the Lindau Blog. It highlights the remarkable young scientists who participate in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and shares their stories and thoughts.


About her research interests:

“As part of the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study, my research explores how lifestyle and environmental factors during early life are contributing to the alarming rise in childhood allergies and obesity. I am especially interested in the role of the gut microbiome (the trillions of ‘good bacteria’ living in our intestines). So far, my research has shown that caesarean birth and bottle feeding disrupt the infant gut microbiome, and that specific microbiome changes are associated with early stages of obesity and food allergy. This research is exciting because the microbiome is an emerging and rapidly evolving field of study in physiology andmedicine. The public remain largely unaware of how important these ‘good bacteria’ are to human health, and how our modern lifestyle may be destroying our natural microbiome, with potentially harmful health consequences.”


On the challenges of a scientist’s life:

“I’ve certainly experienced frustrations in research (when experiments fail, equipment malfunctions, computers crash, or papers get rejected). Co-ordinating my career with my partner’s has been difficult at times, and it can be challenging to maintain a work-life balance since science never stops, and there’s always a grant or paper waiting to be written. But these challenges are not entirely unique to science, and overall I’ve been fortunate to have excellent mentorship and funding support. In the end, I love what I do – the thrill of discovery and the potential to impact individual and population health through my research is a tremendous motivation, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”


On her road to Lindau:

“I was nominated by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (the major national funding agency for medical research in Canada), based on my success in the international Banting Fellowship competition, where I ranked 2nd overall. The Banting Fellowship is the most prestigious postdoctoral fellowship offered in Canada. I was delighted to be nominated, and thrilled to be selected for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting!”


On her expectations about the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting:

“I’m looking forward to everything about the Lindau meeting! What an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and learn from dozens of Nobel Laureates and accomplished young scientists from around the world. I am equally excited for the formal lectures, and for the opportunity to discuss landmark discoveries and cutting-edge science with these accomplished researchers. While I expect all of the Laureates and their lectures will be fascinating (the discovery of telomeres, HIV and oncogenes are just a few of the revolutionary breakthroughs I look forward to hearing about), I am especially keen to meet the Laureates involved in genetics, immunology and microbiology, since these topics are particularly relevant to my research on the gut microbiome. I once had the opportunity to meet Nobel Laureate Dr. Michael Bishop at a conference where he was the keynote speaker. I was a graduate student at the time, unsure whether I should pursue a career in academic research. My brief interaction with Dr. Bishop inspired me to persevere – his lecture was fascinating, but what impacted me most was his surprisingly personable nature (I was floored that such an accomplished scientist would bother to visit my poster), and his contagious enthusiasm for medical research. I expect the Lindau Meeting will be similarly inspiring, on a much larger scale!”


Finally, she would like to say “Thanks!” to:

“I would like to sincerely thank the CIHR for supporting my research and nominating me to attend the Lindau Nobel Meeting. I would also like to acknowledge my mentor, Dr. Anita Kozyrskj, and my colleagues at the CHILD study, the SyMBIOTA research team, and AllerGen Network Centre of Excellence, for their guidance, support and collaboration.”


Meghan Azad will attend the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.