Student graduates at the top of the class

Patrick Boyle credits his outstanding academic performance as a graduate student to many factors particularly the people who supported him throughout his Brock University career. And, there’s one more thing he adds to that list – playing rugby.Boyle received the Governor General’s Gold Medal at Brock’s Friday convocation ceremony. The honour goes to the student who achieves the highest academic standing at the graduate level. Boyle completed his PhD in Biotechnology under the supervision of Professor Charles Després and has started his post-doctoral work at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.He attributes his success to Després and many other faculty and staff who were a big part of his undergraduate and graduate experience at Brock and, of course, his family and friends.As for rugby – it provided an outlet from an intensive research life of days and nights in the lab dwelling on complex problems.“Come game day, my brain took a much needed rest from molecular mechanisms and I concerned myself with passing, running and tackling,” says Boyle who balanced his academic and lab commitments as a successful student athlete with Brock’s varsity team.He was part of the squad’s 1998 provincial division championship and bronze medal seasons in 2005 and 2006. He was named an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star and was further recognized by the OUA in 2006 as a winner of the Trillium Award for his leadership and contributions to the game.Back in the lab, Boyle takes his unique biochemical skill set to bring a new level of understanding in the area of plant gene regulation through protein biochemical techniques.Simply stated, he studies how plants activate their defence genes in response to infection. This research has implications for the development of environmentally friendly disease resistance in crops species.Boyle has chosen a more challenging and difficult path to expand the boundaries of a field in which the majority of research has focused on genetic strategies.“Genetic strategies are simple and effective but can’t resolve certain molecular mechanistic details,” he explains. “Biochemical methods are an opportunity to find answers. This approach is known to be quite difficult and time consuming but it’s very rewarding.”Boyle’s publication record includes three papers in The Plant Cell, the highest impact publication among primary plant research journals, a review article and a book chapter. His graduate work at Brock received funding support through from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship program. read more