Chantal de Bakker is an Associate Member of the ORS and a graduate student in the Bioengineering Department of the University of Pennsylvania. She is conducting her PhD thesis research in the laboratory of Dr. Xiaowei (Sherry) Liu (ORS Member). Ms. de Bakker received the 2015 ORS/RJOS Young Female Investigator Travel Grant for her presentation “Pregnancy, Lactation, and Weaning Induce a Physiological Redistribution of Bone Mass at Multiple Skeletal Sites with Minimal Impact on Bone Quality,” as well as one of the International Chinese Musculoskeletal Research Society’s poster awards (both at the ORS Annual Meeting in Las Vegas). However, her participation in ORS includes annual authorship on presentations dating back to the 2011 Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California, when she was an undergraduate student working with Dr. Elise Morgan (ORS Member).
WLF past-chair Dr. Karen King recently interviewed Ms. de Bakker on her research career path and her experience as an ORS member.
Your research uses high-resolution imaging to measure resorption and formation in bone. What first interested you in this field of research and why did you chose to do your thesis in a Bone Lab?
I became interested in this field during my undergraduate courses, Human Physiology and Biomechanics Laboratory. Upon the recommendation of my mechanics professor, I joined Dr. Morgan’s lab, where I was first introduced to bone research. In her lab, I became intrigued by the dynamic nature of bone tissue and I wanted to learn more about the factors that influence the development of its structure. After being accepted to graduate school, I chose to continue in this field. I became very interested in the exciting new bone imaging techniques being developed by Dr. Liu, and I chose to become involved in developing and applying new methods to visualize bone tissue remodeling.
What helps you be productive in your research and studies?
It took me a while to get into the rhythm of it, but learning early in graduate school to plan experiments well in advance, and schedule specific times for each and then sticking to that schedule has helped.
Tell us about your mentors.
Dr. Morgan, as well as the graduate students in her lab, helped me to develop the foundation for a career in orthopaedic research, and even today they remain very supportive. Dr. Liu has great amount of enthusiasm and is supportive of trying new directions. When the work gets difficult, she always finds ways to motivate me to find solutions and is very willing share her own experiences. What also really helps me is being around more advanced students and post-docs who listen to my challenges and share their experiences with me. I work in part of a large group of orthopaedic labs at Penn, and because of that, I have the opportunity to work with and have as mentors, not only members of my own lab, but also graduate students and post-docs from other labs, who provide unique perspectives.
What advice would you give to beginning researchers about mentors?
It is helpful to have somebody who has been in your shoes and understands the problems and has had the experience to overcome such problems. It has especially helped me to have mentors who are at various career stages, since they can all provide different opinions and different types of advice. Meet someone in your lab or class (even a peer mentor is helpful).
How has ORS membership benefited your research and your career?
ORS has given me the opportunity to discuss my research with others that I wouldn’t otherwise meet. My favorite event at the ORS Annual Meeting is the poster session. I find receiving feedback encouraging – especially that which counters previous negative feedback and criticism. I’ve found that one also receives feedback that leads to new avenues of research, new experiments.
What advice would you give to someone who is attending their first ORS Annual Meeting?
- Plan ahead, review all sessions and posters.
- Stay focused – but do include some talks outside your area of research.
- Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of material.