Postdoc in Richman Lab wins Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship


Dr. Kirstin Brink

Dr. Kirstin Brink, a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Joy Richman’s lab, is one of nine postdoctoral fellows from UBC who received a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship this past July out of 70 awarded nationally for 2017-2018. The prestigious fellowships provide each researcher with two years of funding for research that will positively contribute to Canada’s economic, social and research-based growth.

Brink, who also holds a UBC Killam Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and a fellowship from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, is a paleontologist from Alberta. She is researching the evolution and development of dentitions in modern and extinct animals; more specifically, the development of complex tooth shapes in reptiles as a model for the evolution of heterodonty (different kinds of teeth) in mammals.

She is pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC because of the unique learning environment provided by her supervisor, Dr. Joy Richman, in the Faculty of Dentistry. Richman’s lab is one of the only labs in the world to study tooth development in reptiles, and Brink wanted to learn new molecular and developmental biology techniques.

“Dentitions have been evolving for over 400 million years and fossilize very well,” Brink explains. “They are often the only glimpses we have into the diversity and ecology of extinct organisms, since tooth shape is highly correlated with diet and ecological niche.” She points out that animals occupying different roles in food webs show differences in tooth shape, tooth number, tooth attachment style and tooth replacement patterning, the mechanisms of which are still not fully understood.