There’s no doubt about it – Krista Schleicher loves science. As a learner completing her PhD in University of Toronto’s Molecular Genetics program and doing her placement in the Schramek Lab at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, she spends her time at her lab bench completing experiments with optimism that they will uncover new insights into how tumors behave. When she’s not working, she’s catching up on some light bedtime reading on exciting new scientific discoveries.  Krista was also recognized for her work this past year as the recipient of the Rose Torno Bursary, a Sinai Health education award created to encourage an interest in research and health sciences education.

Krista is doing specialized work in head and neck cancer, studying how gene mutations can result in the initiation and development of oral tumors. She had a pivotal moment as a young adult that sent her on a path of cancer research. When a close friend died after being diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, Krista saw first-hand the devastation of the disease. She says, “it was then that I knew I wanted to go into cancer research, to even make a small dent in the field. I hope that I can contribute some answers on the intricacy of the disease, especially for cancers that currently have minimal treatment options – anything to make a difference. Her memory is what keeps me going.”

The work of a scientist can result in long hours, writing, reading, and staring down a microscope. “I’ve learned more and more recently about the value of balance. Research is great, but you need a life outside of science too,” says Krista. She’s able to strive for this balance through spending time with her dog Maple, cozying up with some historical fiction, and travel. “I recently went to Hawaii, and it was great to just disconnect and recharge in such a beautiful place.”

Krista takes a great deal of joy in sharing her passion. “Communicating about science is becoming a big interest for me. Breaking down big, complex ideas for non-scientists is so important in a world that can be skeptical of science,” says Krista. One way she does this is as a coordinator of LTRI’s SciHigh program, dedicated to sparking interest in science for high school and elementary students. “This program is an amazing opportunity to share cool scientific techniques and experiments with kids,” she says. “It helps them to see that the job of a scientist can be as common and normal as the job of a doctor, or a teacher. And that scientists can be girly or nerdy or anything in between and beyond. We’re just people who like solving really complex puzzles.”