4 Newcomer scholars who have made significant contributions in the scientific community

By Abisha Sooriyathas

Posted on October 18, 2021
Throughout history, there are countless examples of people being discriminated against or sidelined due to their gender or race. This fact holds true within the scientific community.

According to an article by Scientific American, racism and sexism still exist within the scientific community today. In the past, this could be seen through biologists promoting false theories on female inferiority or arguing that race was a biological category that was not only descriptive, but hierarchical. This essentially means that, at one point in history, scientists attempted to argue that Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) had an inherent, biological disadvantage to white people. In addition, the work that women and BIPOC did in order to facilitate scientific advancement was frequently stolen from them.

Although the scientific community is now stepping in the right direction, it clearly still has a long way to go. The remainder of this article strives to contribute to this step in the right direction by celebrating some of the successes and the ground-breaking research of newcomers and people of colour in recent years.

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui is a Chinese-Canadian scientist who immigrated to Canada early in his professional career. According to an article by Hospital News, Tsui is well-known in the scientific community for his discovery of the cystic fibrosis gene in 1989.

Cystic fibrosis is a disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. It causes mucus build up in these areas, resulting in respiratory issues and difficulty digesting foods. This genetic disease currently has no cure.

Tsui’s discovery has allowed for a better understanding of the disease. It has led to advancements in how to treat and manage the disease, as well as newborn screening for early detection and carrier testing in parents. Needless to say, Tsui’s work has prolonged many lives that could have been lost to cystic fibrosis.

Dr. Naranjan Dhalla

Dr. Naranjan Dhalla was born in India and immigrated to Canada in the middle of his career. His research examines the subcellular and molecular basis of heart disease. His work has facilitated connections between heart dysfunction and diabetes, as well as a molecular explanation as to how stress can cause heart disease.
In an article published by the Experimental and Clinical Cardiology journal, Dhalla’s long career was honoured via a tribute to him on his 75th birthday. His career includes many academic accomplishments, such as his publication of over 600 research articles. Dhalla’s work is well regarded, and he has been invited to speak at over 500 conferences and academic institutions around the world. By 2006, Dhalla had trained over 145 scientists who were pursuing their own academic research across the world. Both Dhalla’s research and his ability to inspire young people should be celebrated.

Professor Lakshmi Kotra

Professor Lakshmi Kotra immigrated to Canada from India. According to the Kotra Research Group website, he is “an academic entrepreneur who focuses on drug discovery and development.” He is famous for his discovery of an antimalarial agent through his research at the University Health Network in Toronto.

Malaria is a life-threatening, infectious disease that is transmitted to humans via insect bites. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that in 2019, there were a total of 409 000 deaths due to malaria worldwide.

Luckily, malaria can be treated and cured with antimalarial agents like the one invented by Kotra. Unfortunately, many malaria-associated deaths occur in Africa, where access to these antimalarial drugs may be limited. This is an issue that the WHO has been working to remedy through global initiatives. Nonetheless, Kotra’s work has made a significant impact in reducing the number of malaria-associated deaths around the world.

Dr. Tak Wah Mak

Dr. Tak Wah Mak was born in China and immigrated to Canada later in his life. According to an article by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mak’s research has greatly increased researchers’ understanding of immunity, specifically as it relates to cancer, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS. His contributions are largely driven by his significant discovery of the structure of the human T-cell receptor, a cellular component that is involved in the body’s immune response.
In character, Mak’s success is attributed to his ability to challenge conventional scientific thought and his determination to create fresh research paths. His work is propelled forward by his dedication to serving others. His efforts have clearly been worthwhile, as his research has provided great insight into the induction of immunity in sick or diseased people around the world.

It is safe to say that the work of these four scientists has changed the world as we know it for the better. The discoveries that they made are evidence of the incredible results that can come from hard work and dedication. They are also a testament to the amazing way that newcomers can make a difference around the entire world, no matter where they come from or where they choose to settle.

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