Jessica Ralston Biography | Alumni | University of Guelph

Jessica Ralston Biography


After completing my PhD in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences under the supervision of Prof. David Mutch, I moved to Dublin to take up a postdoctoral research fellow position in the Nutrigenomics Research Group in UCD. During this time I had the opportunity of working on two research projects; the first examined the interactions between diet, metabolic tissue inflammation and the gut microbiome, and the second was in glycaemic management through a collaboration with ‘Food for Health Ireland’ (FHI). FHI was a large-scale academic research centre which included 25 principal investigators with labs based across four Universities, and funded by the government and the food industry. Academic research ‘centres’ or ‘programmes’ like FHI are quite common in Ireland and the EU, and typically involve a large shared grant or funding. My time in FHI not only exposed me to these innovative research funding mechanisms, but also to new types of research management roles which I hadn’t seen in Canada. My first management role in FHI was for its ‘Glycaemic Management’ research group. Eventually the centre Director and CEO encouraged me to apply for a position managing the full centre research programme. That second position ended up being my first large-scale research centre management role in Ireland. After 3 years in FHI, an incredible opportunity arose to do maternity cover as Centre Manager for Systems Biology Ireland (SBI; ranked among the top 5 systems biology centres in the world, with a focus on cancer research). This was a wonderful experience which, given the sheer size and magnitude of research activity and impact of SBI, allowed me to further hone my centre management skills. Importantly this experience also led me to my current role. SBI obtained ~€12M in funding to develop a new cancer research consortium called ‘Precision Oncology Ireland’ (POI). The POI consortium includes 5 Universities, 9 international companies and 6 cancer charities, with the collective aim of developing new diagnostics and therapeutics for personalized treatment of cancer. When POI started in 2019 I took up my position as POI’s COO and it has been an incredible journey so far.

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