Alberta Cancer Foundation

The Other Side of Sambu

Do you have siblings? What memories come to mind when you think of them?
I have one younger sister who is a teacher in Hyderabad, India. We used to play board games, fly kites and I used to make her laugh while having dinner. She laughs loudly even now, and it used to land us in trouble with my parents.

I understand your wife is also a scientist. What does she do?
She is a scientist supervising and managing Dr. Carol Cass and Dr. Michael Sawyer’s labs at the Cross Cancer Institute.

How did you two meet?
While we were doing our masters degrees in 1977 in Hyderabad. She relocated to another city when we finished our masters and, only after the parting, we came to know we wanted to be more than friends. We got married in 1981 but were living in two different cities, separated by a 12-hour bus ride, for five full years because our PhDs were our focus before starting a family.

What do you do in your downtime?
We love watching movies. We go to the theatre or we snuggle up in our home in front of the TV. We travel as a family every year to one destination or another. It has been a very important part of our discipline to occasionally get away from the scientific professional life. I also share the passion of visiting museums with my daughters.

Do you ever completely get away from work when travelling?
I always have my laptop and Blackberry because the type of work we do in tumour banking needs real-time solutions. I work in the early mornings to answer each day’s emails before my family is awake either on vacation or not. I receive several hundred emails per week and it’s difficult to play catch-up. I don’t want my team losing time waiting for my input.

What advice would you offer a student considering scientific cancer research as a profession?
Researchers should take an all-inclusive, multi-disciplinary approach. Cancer is a disease that is not dictated by one cell type or another, one organ or another. Researchers need to understand patients; where the sample is coming from and to have respect for every sample they use; it’s coming from a live patient.