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June 19, 2014 — Print Article: Melanie Named to Top 40 Under 40

PhD Candidate Melanie Wills has been named to the ‘Top 40 Under 40’ by Guelph Mercury. Congratulations Melanie! The Guelph Mercury article is available here. Congratulations Melanie!

Article reading:
40 under 40. Guelph Mercury. Thursday, June 19, 2014. C3.
Melanie Wills, 31. Researcher/filmmaker.

Melanie Wills is a cancer researcher with a creative and inquisitive mind that leads her down many different paths.

"I am passionate about all my interests and fascinated by this field of research," said Wills.

"Why else would I get involved in this perpetual machine where one question leads to five more and you are never totally satisfied?"

Wills is a PhD candidate working in the molecular and cellular biology department at the University of Guelph

"I am a full-time researcher looking at the molecular basis of diseases," said Wills. "Basically, I study how cells talk to each other — the process of cellular signalling and how cells interpret their surroundings. That is important to cell survival. A lot of aging diseases and cancer rely on cell signalling."

Her work is oriented toward cancer and the physiological context of cell communication.

"Proteins sit on the outside of a cell like communications towers," she said. "They receive signals so cells can recognize and respond. They bring the signal through the membrane of the cell into the cell."

She is often seen in the lab late at night analyzing cells from tissues of ground-up brain biopsies.

"I work irregular hours," she said. "Cells don't follow a 9 to 5 schedule. I spend a lot of time on experiment as well as writing."

Her writing efforts often extend outside the lab.

Her mother, Gabriele Wills, is a published author and has inspired her daughter's passion for creative writing.

"I love storytelling," said Melanie Wills. "I have collaborated with my mother on a novel of young adult historical fiction and we are looking for a publisher."

Will's other passions include photography and film.

"I started taking photographs when I was 10 years old and when I was 12 I started working with film," she said. "It was a natural progression of photography and storytelling."

Her search for stories led her briefly into the field of broadcast journalism.

"When I was 14 I had my own teen news program on the local cable channel 10 in Lindsay called Minor Issues," said Wills. "That was my big break in television.

After her stint in television she started her own film company, Double Helix Creations.

"That is still ticking away in the background," said Wills. "I have been really busy with my research but I am still making short films and documentaries. Some have been screened at local festivals."

Wills has won many awards for her research including the WC Winegard Medal,

The Governor General's Silver Award and the CIHR Vanier Scholarship

"Cancer research is very charged," she said. "There is a tremendous sense of responsibility. Until all forms of cancer and diseases are understood, we can't stop."
Nominated by Dr. Nina Jones