Cultivating curiosity for the fundamentals of science

Caroline Schild-Poulter, PhD, has that scientific ‘it’ factor: an unhindered sense of curiosity. With a zeal for fundamental research, she is working to explain some of the human body’s most enduring mysteries.
“For me, understanding how to combat disease is underlined by understanding how things work at a basic level,” she explained. “Translational research only works if you have that background.”
Schild-Poulter is currently investigating how and why cells become cancerous by focusing on RanBPM, a scaffolding protein involved in the development of the disease.
RanBPM has tumour-suppressive functions and is involved in the regulation of signalling pathways that are commonly deregulated in cancer. Schild-Poulter has established cell models that show preventing expression of the protein triggers the growth of cancer cells.
“We’d like to understand how RanBPM is regulated so we can modulate its expression or activate it in certain cases,” she explained. “Understanding how RanBPM functions to prevent tumor development will also help develop diagnostic and therapeutic approaches aimed at improving cancer treatment."
Schild-Poulter’s lab is now developing animal models to validate these initial research findings.
Born and educated in Switzerland, she has a strong background in basic molecular biology. She says her work with RanBPM was an unexpected laboratory journey. “It came to me, I didn’t go to it,” she said with a laugh.
Schild-Poulter receives funding from CIHR and NSERC, as well as a more personal source. Robarts donor Mrs. Marilyn Fuller, who passed away in December 2014, supported her work for several years. “We had a great connection,” said Schild-Poulter. “I’m in debt to her for helping support my research and the lab.”
For Schild-Poulter, support for basic science research is critical, particularly when she thinks of how much more work needs to be done.  “We’ve made tremendous progress in understanding cellular functions and how they can be disturbed in disease, but we still have lots to learn,” she said.