Congratulations to Sam Baglot and Laura Best have recently been awarded the CCIC Neuroscience Fellowship in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research via the Brain Canada Rising Stars Trainee Award
The CCIC is committed to supporting evidence-based research and education concerning the endocannabinoid system, the therapeutic applications of cannabinoids, and the potential health benefits, harms and societal impacts of cannabis use. We are thrilled that this now includes supporting Canadian trainees like Samantha Baglot and Laura Best through our partnership with Brain Canada who are on the cutting-edge of cannabinoid and neuroscience research. Read on to learn more about these outstanding trainees!
PhD candidate, University of Calgary
Supervisor: Dr. Matthew Hill
Sam’s research focuses on the study of prenatal cannabis exposure using rodent models. Sam has previously received prestigious funding through the 2018 Vanier scholarships program, as well as numerous other fellowships and travel awards. But, this award is particularly special for us at the CCIC as we are able to directly support Sam’s research through this newly established scholarship program with Brain Canada. Sam has already demonstrated a great deal of success with 11 peer-reviewed publications and more than 150 citations. We are so happy to be able to support Sam’s success so far and look forward to her promising career ahead!
Sam was born in New Westminster, BC and grew up in Vernon, BC. She completed her undergrad Bachelor’s of Art in Psychology at the University of British Columbia. Sam’s journey into research was somewhat serendipitous. She enrolled in a fourth-year study program in the Psychology department at UBC where she first found she enjoyed research. This initial research into the prenatal effects of alcohol exposure in rats then led to a MSc in Neuroscience with the same research group further exploring the effects of alcohol on development and neurogenesis. After completing her MSc, Sam saw the opportunity to study the effects of prenatal cannabis exposure with Dr. Hill at U Calgary as the next logical step.
When Sam began her PhD research Canada had just legalized cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use. With this legal change came changes in consumer’s perception of cannabis safety, including the use of cannabis during pregnancy. Sam is keen to explore the effects of prenatal cannabis exposure on multiple aspects of development and emphasizes the importance of two aspects of her research: (1) translatability and (2) collaboration. Sam and her colleagues are using a rat vapour model to explore prenatal cannabis exposure, which reflects the most common route of consumption in humans – inhalation. In addition, Sam and her colleagues will be working with multiple labs and using many approaches to explore immunological, endocrine, placental, microbial, and neurological changes in the prenatal, adolescent, and adult brains of offspring exposed to cannabis in utero. In this way, they are working toward a holistic perspective of the effects of cannabis. Funding from Brain Canada will directly support the study of neurological and behavioural changes occurring in these animal models.
When I asked Sam what the future holds, she said her answer – like many graduate students – changes depending on the day. She knows she wants to remain in the research, and whether that takes the form of industry, postdoctoral fellowships, or eventual leadership of her own lab is not yet known. When I asked Sam to offer personal advice to other students, she said the balance is important; “take a deep breath and spend time with your friends” and “enjoy the fun parts of being a grad student.” This is excellent advice and coming from Sam, it is great to hear and see someone who has had such success recognize the importance of that balance.
Postdoctoral Fellow, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Supervisors: Dr. Bernard LeFoll and Dr. Isabelle Boileau
Laura’s research is based on the observation that adolescent cannabis users report near-daily use and that this pattern of use is believed to affect the growth and development of the brain, increasing the risk for impaired brain function, mental illness, and addiction in adulthood. Despite these impacts we do not have a good understanding of how adolescent cannabis use alters brain function. This research will use positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to help understand how high-risk cannabis use might alter synaptic density compared to non-cannabis users. Participants will be drawn from the Toronto community alongside a larger CAMH study, supplementing their recruitment with existing outreach in the community. Laura’s receiving of this award is particularly special for us at the CCIC as we can directly support her research through this newly established scholarship program with Brain Canada. Laura has already demonstrated a great deal of success with 7 peer-reviewed publications and more than 58 citations. We are so happy to be able to support Laura’s success so far and look forward to her promising career ahead!
Laura completed her undergrad Bachelor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at McGill University. Laura worked with Dr. Paul Clarke, who subsequently introduced her to Dr. Boileau. Dr. Boileau later became Laura’s PhD supervisor at CAMH where she explored the endogenous cannabinoid system with a PET radiotracer for fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) in individuals with alcohol use disorder. She is very familiar with the endogenous cannabinoid system and addiction and is happy to continue in this field.
Laura grew up in a household with mental health and addiction concerns and knew that she wanted to understand this research better and contribute to the field herself. Her interests are both scientific/academic and personal. She was never sure if she wanted to go the research or clinical route, but it became really clear to her at CAMH that clinical work is what excites her the most. Understanding how research impacts humans is really important to her. In the next five years Laura hopes to apply for medical school and eventually pursue work as a clinician scientist. She said that it is increasingly clear that to do clinical research in Canada you need to either work alongside a clinician or be a clinician yourself. She would love to be involved in the clinical treatment side as well as contributing to the research piece because they serve each other so well. If Laura were able to give her past-self one piece of advice it would be to trust the process and surround yourself with people who support and excite you, you will get through it all.