Student Success

Research experience paved the way to medical school for two U of L students

Being involved in research as undergraduate students at the University of Lethbridge confirmed their interest in medical school for both Dr. Harshil Patel and Kamiko Bressler (BSc ’18, MSc ’19).

While Patel completed his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Calgary this spring, Bressler begins her coursework online at the U of C’s Cumming School of Medicine this month. As undergrads, they worked on research in Dr. Nehal Thakor’s lab in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Thakor is a Campus Alberta Innovation Program (CAIP) Chair of Synthetic Biology and RNA-based Systems.

Both found their participation in the research in Thakor’s lab helped them refine their career goals and gave them transferable skills.

Kamiko Bressler

“I knew I wanted to do something involving science and I always thought it would be really interesting to be in a health-care field, but research really helped me figure out definitely that I want to pursue medicine,” says Bressler.

“If I choose to do a research-based practice, where I could be a researcher and a clinician, having those skills and that early exposure at the University of Lethbridge will help me set up any research projects that I want to do in the future,” says Patel.

Patel and Bressler were among the first students to work with Thakor when he arrived at the U of L in 2014, so they had the opportunity to participate in setting up the lab.

Dr. Harshil Patel
“It was great to understand the entire procedure of what happens behind the scenes,” says Patel. “A lot of it was learning how to be a little bit of a manager and figuring out what the day-to-day procedures are for running a lab, understanding the processes of how we actually get our products, chemicals and reagents to how we contact other labs for protocols, troubleshooting and sharing results.” 

“Getting to participate in research really gives you hands-on experience that I think is so unique to U of L,” says Bressler. “You’re able to see how research you’re doing in the lab can actually make a difference, how it might one day progress to actually helping people in the real world.”

Along with lab techniques, Bressler says she learned how research works and contributes to science as well as other skills, like how to communicate and collaborate with others. She and Patel were co-authors on the lab’s first review article publication in 2016.

“In our lab in particular, there were undergrads working with grad students and our supervisor, Nehal, was always so excellent,” says Bressler. “He would help us in the lab, hands-on all the time, and we’d work with other labs and even other schools. It was really neat to see all that come together to form an idea.”

Patel, a graduate of Lethbridge Collegiate Institute, was accepted into the U of C’s medical school when he was in his third year. He began his residency this summer.

Bressler, who’s originally from Medicine Hat, has been working in the Registrar’s Office at the U of L since completing her master’s. In addition to her online coursework, she plans to move to Calgary in August to be ready for the possibility of more in-person work beginning in September.