One of Memorial’s ‘leading ladies,’ Dr. Volkoff’s research interests are in fish physiology, with focus on the mechanisms involved in the endocrine regulation of food intake and reproduction in fish.
“To date, we only understand a very small portion of the hormonal mechanisms regulating fish physiology. Despite recent advances, much is left to be accomplished in this field, in which young animal-loving researchers should find a fruitful, productive niche. “
Dr. Volkoff did her undergraduate and MSc degrees in France, followed by a PhD at Clemson University (SC, USA), on the role of thyroid hormones in the reproduction of sharks and rays. She proceeded to the University of Alberta for postdoctoral research on the endocrine regulation of feeding in goldfish.
Speaking on what drew her to focus on her area of research, “I have always been passionate about animals, and in particular intrigued by fish, their diversity and their ability to adapt to their environment” said Dr. Volkoff.
Scientists are mostly known for making contributions to global knowledge about a given field. In that vein, Dr. Volkoff’s contributions to global knowledge include being part of a pioneer group in the field of comparative fish endocrinology in the beginning of her scientific career. Dr. Volkoff’s lab has published over three dozen publications and provided answers to relevant global questions such as climate change and its effect on marine life forms.
Speaking on the potential impacts of her research, Dr. Volkoff said,
“My research provides information on fish feeding and reproduction and thus might contribute to the improvement of aquaculture performances (lower costs, better growth, better ecological practices) and sustainable aquatic resources. Furthermore, it might help save endangered fish species. Also, given the similarities in endocrine physiology between fish and mammals, my research might also contribute to the development of efficient treatments for metabolic (e.g. obesity) and eating disorders in humans. Finally, our results can provide new clues on the effects of human impact on the environment and aquatic life (e.g. climate change)”
With science being a very intense field, it takes an intense passion to begin and carry on researching over the years. When asked about what drives her to keep striving, Dr. Volkoff said “my drive is scientific curiosity and the eagerness to find answers in the field of fish endocrinology for which many questions remain.”
Speaking on the under-representation of women in some STEM fields, Dr. Volkoff believes that “the under-representation of women in research in some countries may be owing to cultural/educational stereotypes leading to a lack of economic opportunity”. Hence, the possibility of pursuing research in universities or institutions where there are more opportunities and less academic sexism would provide them with excellent training and increase their confidence as young female researchers.
Dr. Volkoff’s advice to budding science enthusiasts is this:
“If you are enthusiastic about a scientific career, persevere, do not hesitate to contact senior (sometimes intimidating) researchers for advice and never give up.”