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Q&A: Christopher Spring, Research Core Facility co-ordinator

Toronto, December 5, 2013

By Evelyne Jhung

Christopher Spring
Christopher Spring (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Christopher Spring joined St. Michael’s in 2004, working in a research lab. He joined the Research Core Facilities team three years ago when the LKSKI was opened.

1. How do you play a role in scientists’ research?

Along with the other core co-ordinators, we essentially act as consultants in areas including histology, molecular biology, microscopy and flow cytometry so that people can get the most out of their research projects. We also teach basic methodologies to trainees to master techniques integral to their projects. Our primary role is to collaborate with researchers and provide technical expertise in the design and execution of scientific experiments.

2. You oversee the flow cytometers, located on the fourth floor of the LKSKI. What is flow cytometry?

Flow cytometry is a technique that allows us to look at cells, using machines called flow cytometers, one at a time and analyze lipids, protein, DNA, biological activities – anything that can be measured with fluorescence. Pretty much anyone who conducts wet bench research can take advantage of this.

3. What else do you do?

We’re uniquely placed to identify needs for the research community as a whole. For example, a cell sorter would be helpful to many scientists who can’t practically source the technology offsite. This infrastructure is very expensive so we applied for Canadian Foundation for Innovation funding. We were approved for two CFI grants, totalling about $2 million. With this funding, we’re getting not only a much-needed cell sorter, but also a few other costly pieces of technology. All of the equipment will allow researchers to study diseases like lung disease, diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke more effectively.

We also work on a variety of projects of institutional value, like getting the SciSupply Store opened on Sept. 23. Researchers can now order onsite many of their research consumables – supplies like plastic and glassware, reagents, enzymes, etc.

4. You have a reputation amongst your colleagues for being quite the baker. Is that how you like to spend your down time?

I do very much like to cook and even made crème brulee in one of our team meetings! I also like camping with my kids and skydiving. I just finished a four-portage trip with just myself and my three-year-old son in the Kawarthas and completed my solo skydiving license about a month ago.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.