KPU grad finds success researching how to turn back the clock

Fri, Nov 3, 2023

Working away in the Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) Applied Genomic Centre (AGC), Lab Technician Taylor Chin has been researching how to reverse aging and age-related diseases.

No small task for an undergrad, but one that KPU is uniquely equipped to help aspiring researcher’s like Chin persue.

“This research has a lot of potential,” Chin says. “There is the possibility that we could one day reverse aging and age-related diseases. Think about all the people whose quality of life could benefit from the reversal of diseases like Alzheimer’s."

In April, 2023, Chin graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Health Science with a minor in Biology. She then went from student research assistant to a full-time lab technician at the AGC.

Taylor Chin standing next to her award winning poster project in Los AngelesWhile Chin was studying she took full advantage of the resources available to her research into the process of aging. Specifically, her research project was titled: The Protocol Development for Measuring DNA Methylation in the CpG Regions of Genes Associated With Aging.

“It’s clear to people that as we age, our bodies change,” Chin explains. “One change that occurs is how our cells read our DNA to know which proteins to make. This is gene expression. As we age, the expression of our genes change. It’s these changes that can lead to a person developing conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer and cardiovascular disease.”

That’s where the process of DNA methylation comes into play. “You can think of it like a light switch,” Chin says. “If there is a lot of methylation present, a gene will be turned off. Too little DNA methylation and the gene is turned on!”

Specifically, Chin’s research focused on creating a way to zoom in on six specific genes related to aging to measure DNA methylation. This would allow researchers to track methylation patterns over time to see how they are related to the unhealthy aspects of aging.

It’s important to note that being able to turn off or reverse aging is a long way off. Chin’s research is an early first step along the path toward living longer, healthier lives.

Her project began in September 2022 and the research will conclude by November 2023. It’s already won Chin an award at the 46th West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference held in Los Angeles. Dr. Mika Mokkonen, her supervisor at KPU, has plans to continue this research.

Chin is currently working to gain more field experience and planning to eventually apply for graduate school with the ultimate goal of obtaining a Ph.D.

Taylor Chin seated in the AGC leaning over lab samples while working“Because of this project, I got to learn lab techniques and use data analysis tools that I wasn’t given the opportunity to learn and use as part of the other undergraduate courses for my program,” Says Chin. “In my opinion, this was one of the best parts of doing a research project through KPU’s health science and biology programs.”

“KPU is turning out independent undergraduate research students with more experience than some of the students from more well-known institutions, and I think that's not only special but important to emphasize to all current and future students of KPU as a now KPU alumni myself.”

It’s not just the research and technical opportunities that Chin is thankful for, but also the network of mentors and connections she’s made along the way.

“I’d love to shout out to everyone at the AGC for just being plain awesome to work with and to learn from. And to all my fellow research students, we went on a grand adventure together, one where we experienced so much personal and professional growth, and I’m so thankful to have had them as my support system during the final year of my degree.”