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November 2013

Award Winner Interview: Adam Metherel

Below is an exclusive interview with Mitacs Elevate fellow Adam Metherel who won the Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization at the 3rd annual Mitacs Awards Reception on November 19th in Ottawa. Under the supervision of Dr. Ken Stark in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, Adam undertook a Mitacs Elevate fellowship in partnership with Certo Labs.

Can you tell us a bit about the research you did through Mitacs Elevate that led to you winning the Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization?

During my graduate studies, the tedious process of lipid analysis and in particular, the numerous steps of lipid extraction from tissues and foods was never more obvious.  From this, a side project was born in an attempt to expedite the extraction process.  After a number of failed attempts, a novel filter was developed that could allow the lipid-containing phase to pass through.  My fellowship with Certo Labs allowed me to continue with chemically refining the filter properties, which led to the development of fatty acid and cholesterol extraction kits for commercial use. The one-step process represents a huge time-savings over the standard, multi-step protocol for extraction, leading to substantial productivity improvement and cost savings.

What is the greatest advantage you feel you gained through your fellowship? What does it bring to your research or professional career?

One of the truly unique aspects of the Mitacs Elevate program is the availability of professional development workshops.  As a career student, I had rarely been exposed to a formal work environment and these courses have been truly beneficial to my development as a researcher.  These courses provided much needed experiences in the attainment of future employment through the ‘Effective Networking’ and ‘Practice Your Interview Skills’.  I feel that the ‘Foundation of Project Management’ course will be particularly beneficial as I move forward in my professional career by allowing me to understand the nuances of creating a productive and dynamic team work environment.

What advice would you give other PhD students currently considering a Mitacs Elevate fellowship?

Have confidence in your work and believe that it has the potential to turn into something special.  Regardless of how far-fetched the idea or concept might appear to be in the beginning it is important to see it through to the end whatever that end may turn out to be.  Initially, I was skeptical that a simplified and efficient method for lipid extraction could be developed in an attempt to improve upon a method that was over a half-century old.  If I had not persevered and continued to believe in the benefit of the initial concept I clearly would not be where I am now with a commercially available product.

Which skill do you think is most important for postdoctoral fellows to learn before entering an industry environment?

Before entering into the industry environment I believe it is imperative to have a firm grasp on time management.   Coming from an academic setting during graduate studies the notion of deadlines have a tendency for being rather flexible.  As a postdoctoral fellow at the intersection of academia and industry it is clear how the deadlines can become significantly more rigid. Therefore, improving one’s time management skills potentially through another one of the many Mitacs offered professional development course is imperative for a successful transition into an industry work environment.

What are your future plans?  Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years whether in health or innovation, academia or industry I see myself leading a team of researchers and continuing my research in developing novel technologies that could can make lab research simpler and easier.