by Meredith Dault
Until she landed in Kingston as a first year undergraduate, Melanie Adams-Cioaba had never even visited Queen's. The Newfoundland native had applied to a number of universities across the province, and chose Queen's after being offered a scholarship. It was a decision that would change her life. "I just showed up and stayed for eight and a half years," she laughs, thinking back.
After graduating with her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry in 2001, Adams-Cioaba says she had fully intended to leave the city, but was "sucked into the vortex of Kingston." So when she was given the opportunity to begin a direct-entry PhD in biochemistry and structural biology, Adams-Cioaba says she jumped at the chance.
At the time, the town of Walkerton, Ontario, was suffering from a deadly outbreak of E. coli -- a tragic situation that gave Adams-Cioaba, her advisor Dr. Zongchao Jia, and her colleagues plenty to study. "Most E. coli will never make you sick," she explains, "but we were interested in studying the proteins that hadn't been studied before, between the ones that make you ill and the ones that don't. We wanted to study the fine differences between them."
Shortly after graduating in 2006, Adams-Cioaba landed a position as a research associate with the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, where she worked with 20 other post-docs. "It was fantastic," she says of the experience. "It was a huge mash-up of people from all different backgrounds, thrown together in a big project." After two years, she moved on to a position as a senior fellow with the Structural Genomics Consortium, a research-based not-for-profit organization affiliated with the University of Toronto. That, in turn, lead to a research position at Penn State University.
But her most recent adventure will see her leaving the world of academic research for an industry position as a Key Accounts Manager. "I'm branching out into the business side of research," says Adams-Cioaba of her new job which she describes as incorporating product development, technical support and consulting.
At the end of the day, Adams-Cioaba says her training at Queen's allowed her to "hit the ground running," upon graduating. "You're always a bit worried that you've become comfortable and complacent in your environment, and you wonder how you're going to fare somewhere else," she says thoughtfully, "but I was perfectly well equipped - if not overly equipped - to sit on the bench at any lab." She says it's a sentiment her classmates from Queen's share. "None of us felt we had any research hang-ups when we started at new laboratories."
For Adams-Cioaba the future is still wide open: "even in this recession, I haven't struggled (to find work). I have been able to pick and choose, and to do what interests me most of the time. The four and a half years I spent doing my PhD were the craziest and busiest years of my life, but they set me up to do whatever I want."