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Mamneet Manghera

Get to know our 2016 Vanier Scholars – Mamneet Manghera

“I remember jumping a few times in joy around the lab, followed by running out of the lab screaming down the hallway.”

October 3, 2016 — 

Mamneet (she goes by Sheena) Manghera is a dancer and choreographer and loves volunteer work. She has a strong record of outstanding academic performance, community leadership and incredible research productivity. With a perfect GPA of 4.50, Sheena has been honoured with an extensive list of academic awards, distinctions, prizes and scholarships, including the Governor General’s Gold Medal and Sir Gordon Wu Graduate Scholarship in 2015. She is one of four U of M students to receive the 2016 Vanier Scholarship.

Sheena completed a BSc and MSc at the University of Winnipeg before continuing her doctoral research under the supervision of Dr. Renée Douville in the department of immunology at the U of M. Her research looks closely at how pieces of human DNA made up of retroviral genomes (called endogenous retroviruses) are activated to produce functional viral proteins in brain cells and how these endogenous retroviruses contribute to neuropathology in ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Manghera spoke to UM Today about receiving the Vanier Scholarship.

UM Today: What do you like best about doing your PhD?

Mamneet Manghera: There are many things I love about my PhD, but most of all, I love the research aspect. Research to me is like going on an adventure quest. When you think you have solved a given problem, the opposite happens, and you are faced with even more questions and biological problems to solve. This unexpected nature of a research journey makes my PhD job quite challenging and exciting!

Moreover, doing medical research provides me with a sense of purpose and direction in life. After having witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of the neurological disease ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in my community, I found my purpose and passion in medical research aimed at elucidating the mechanisms behind ALS neuropathology. It is extremely rewarding and satisfying to know that the work I do in the lab has the potential to bring a positive change in the health of individuals living with ALS.

It is equally fulfilling to know that through my PhD journey, I will be able to enhance knowledge in my field of research and contribute to the Canadian vision of making ALS a treatable disease in the near future.

What has been one of your most memorable experiences at the U of M so far?

Receiving the Vanier Scholarship probably ranks the highest on my list of most memorable experiences at the U of M so far. I have only been a student at the U of M for one year – so, I hope to lengthen my “memorable experiences” list in the future. In the coming year, I am highly looking forward to gaining valuable and memorable experiences while acting as the deputy student representative for the department of immunology and by partaking in science outreach endeavors at the U of M.

How did you feel when you found out you had received the Vanier Scholarship?

When I found out I had received the Vanier Scholarship, I was extremely thrilled, and felt honoured and grateful. The Vanier Scholarship is highly competitive and prestigious – I never fully believed I would be successful in this competition. So, I was in a little bit of disbelief when I found out that I had received this award. I was in the lab when I read the positive results in my ResearchNet account. I remember jumping a few times in joy around the lab, followed by running out of the lab screaming down the hallway. Luckily, it was a Saturday morning and nobody was there to see me jump around and hear me scream in excitement.

Who was the first person you told after finding out you received the Vanier Scholarship? How did they react?

I was working in the lab on a weekend when I received the email and checked the results on ResearchNet. I immediately picked up the phone and called my supervisor Dr. Renée Douville to give her the good news. She was extremely happy and beyond proud. After this, I told my fiancé and my siblings. They were also very happy and proud of my accomplishment.

What keeps you busy when you’re not pursuing your research?

I love to dance – so, I choreograph and perform for the Punjab pavilion at Folklorama, as well as other cultural community events throughout the year. Sometimes, I also organize and host cultural events and activities. These efforts allow me to preserve and promote my culture and heritage. Additionally, I actively involve myself in other community work on a regular basis, which includes providing academic and career advice to new immigrants, and assisting them with getting access to governmental services so they can successfully integrate into the Canadian society. As I love doing volunteer work, I try to make the best use of opportunities, such as walk for ALS. Other than volunteer and community work, spending time with my family and friends is very important for me, and includes movie nights, bowling, and weekend getaways.

Fast Facts:

  • Manghera earned a GPA of 4.5 (out of 4.5) on her graduate course work
  • Author of seven articles in high impact journals
  • Passionate about sharing her research, she competed in the 2014 Western Regional Three Minute Thesis competition
  • She has volunteered with the Global Welcome Centre, Let’s Talk Science, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba, the ALS Society of Manitoba and the Sikh Society of Manitoba.

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