When research leads to romance

UBC Okanagan researchers Sanjoy Ghosh and Deanna Gibson with their two children
UBC Okanagan researchers Sanjoy Ghosh and Deanna Gibson with their two children

At MSFHR, we are justifiably proud of our track record of funding excellent research and fostering collaborations that address high priority health system issues. But we were surprised to find out that we’ve fostered collaboration in a whole different way for two of our awardees.

It all started with an alphabetical list of winners of 2007 MSFHR Trainee Awards. At the time, Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh and Dr. Deanna Gibson were both post-doctoral fellows working at different labs at the Child & Family Research Institute in Vancouver. When the list of winners was published and Ghosh saw Gibson’s name right after his on the list, he approached her and asked if she would go with him to the upcoming MSFHR-hosted trainee awards event. They knew of each other and had spoken a few times when their work intersected, but it was only when they attended this event together that their relationship, both professional and romantic, began to blossom.

Fast forward eight years. Drs. Ghosh and Gibson are now married and living in Kelowna with their two children, ages two and six. They are both faculty in the department of biology at UBC Okanagan and while they head two separate labs, they have discovered areas of overlap in their research interests that support and inform each other’s work. Their mutual interest in the role of fatty acids in the development of inflammation in the body has led them to collaborate on studies and co-author several papers.

“I tell everyone one I can that if it wasn’t for the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and that alphabetical list of names, I may never have got the opportunity to talk to Deanna,” said Ghosh, now a 2014 MSFHR Scholar.

Dr. Ghosh’s research is focused on the drivers behind the rise of heart disease in Western societies – diet and lack of exercise. He is looking specifically at how the unsaturated fatty acids found in vegetable oils contribute to increased inflammation in our bodies, which can accelerate heart disease.

Dr. Gibson’s work is focused on the microbiome in the intestines and the factors which influence microbiota establishment. Her current research is focused on DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and its impact on the intestinal development of infants. She is leading a study that will compare the bacteria in baby poop of infants fed either breast milk or formula, with or without DHA, to determine the health effects of certain types of bacteria in the gut.