Meet Alana Ogata
What sparked your interest in chemistry?
As a child, I loved art and building things; my favorite activities being drawing and creating anything I could imagine from Legos. I was always keen on mathematics, but disliked Chemistry my first semester in college (a story I like to tell my students is that I actually failed my first college exam ever and it was in general Chemistry). But my interest in Chemistry was sparked sophomore year when I sat in on a seminar by Dr. Kristin Wustholz, who spoke about studying single dye molecules with fluorescence spectroscopy to understand solar cell technology.
This was my first awareness of research, and soon after I joined Dr. Wustholz’s lab. Ultimately she was the one to ignite that spark into a full blown fire; she taught me the basics of research, how to be an independent scientist, how to ask interesting questions and find answers. She is also the one who encouraged me to go to graduate school, and the rest is history. I love chemistry because I can be creative and imaginative in answering unknowns in the world around us, and use that knowledge to solve critical problems specifically in the area of disease. And now, I get to mentor and inspire future scientists through the vehicle of research and chemistry.
What are you looking forward to exploring in your lab at U of T?
Proteins and their role in disease diagnostics and pathology. I am an analytical chemist, so I count and measure things. In my lab, we aim to develop technologies approaches that can measure look at single protein molecules in order to characterize them in biological systems. We will literally be counting molecules one by one, which to me is as analytical as it gets! And there are huge advantages to achieving single-molecule resolution, one being that we can detect proteins at very low concentrations in important fluids like blood, urine, or saliva.
Many important proteins that are markers for disease are present at low concentrations, and so my lab will explore these proteins and their potential in creating new disease diagnostics. A second part of my research program will focus on the translation of point-of-care devices, that which could bring new disease diagnostics directly to the clinics or your home. My long-term vision is to transform women’s health using my labs technologies by creating devices to monitor important markers of gynecological health over a woman’s lifetime and pave the way for personalized medicine for gynecological diseases.
What keeps you busy outside of the lab?
I love to move. Whether it be inside at a dance class or outside on a hike. Fun fact about me, I have been a fitness instructor since my time in college and have continued to teach fitness classes during my academic career. The skills to teach fitness include multitasking, improvisation, and the ability to read your audience at every moment- all abilities which that directly improve my communication skills as a scientist.
I also love skiing, but have never tried cross country skiing - looking forward to exploring the slopes in Toronto! Lastly, I love checking out local vineyards and enjoying a good happy hour with friends.