Catie Futhey is an MD/PhD student in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience under the supervision of Drs. Veronica Hirsch-Reinshagen and Mark Cembrowski. Catie’s research project looks at the neuropathological underpinnings and clinical features of the cognitive impairment observed in Alzheimer Disease and chronic schizophrenia. We caught up with Catie to learn more about her research, interests and advice for future students.

Why did you decide to pursue Neuroscience?
I have always marveled at the human brain – how a physical organ governs so much about the way we operate both as organisms and as humans. I felt that understanding the brain was a necessary foundation for understanding all other systems, due to its power in modulating our physiology and everyday experiences. With a degree in neuroscience and a year of medical school now under my belt, I am still just as fascinated by the brain’s mysteries and the way it orchestrates everything from blood pressure to personality and memory.

What skills do you bring from your previous education and what skills are you gaining currently in the graduate program?
I have acquired a host of knowledge from instructors and researchers in neuroscience from my Bachelor’s at McGill University. I worked in Multiple Sclerosis research which introduced me to laboratory research and the field of neuroimmunology. In the joint MD/PhD program, I am uniquely situated at the border between medical innovation and clinical practice, where I am learning how to incorporate novel ideas and research into clinical practice, and nuances from clinical practice into formulating relevant research questions.

What is a typical day like for you as an MD/PhD student?
A typical day can vary significantly given the eclectic nature of the joint MD/PhD program: anything from learning how to conduct a cardiac exam to an extended session at the microscope analyzing immunofluorescent brain sections. That said, even at these early stages in my training, a day often consists of an integration of both clinical and research learning.

What advice do you have for students interested in the MD/PhD program?
Any students interested in the program should definitely reach out to a current student (myself included!) or another mentor of some kind –– it is so helpful to get a firsthand perspective on the day-to-day realities of the program. Also, imposter syndrome is very real. If you are interested, apply!

What do you like to do outside of research?
I love running (10Ks are my favourite distance), hiking BC’s breathtaking mountains, and writing/making music.

What is your favourite quote?
“It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.” – Carl Sagan