Originally from Montreal, Canada, McLelland characterizes himself as laid-back. By combining this relaxed attitude with creativity and a passion for uncovering new knowledge, he seems to be quite successful in doing what he loves most: moving forward. In science. In sports. In life.
He does not shy away from uncomfortable positions in his efforts, literally – while doing yoga – or metaphorically – by moving overseas, or not giving up on ice hockey despite starting off as a terrible player. “I enjoy doing things I'm good at, but I also like activities I don’t excel in. Just for fun, and to feel like I can improve my skills.”
He loves playing around with cells in the lab to discover the ways genes interact – knocking out genes with great precision and observing the effects. “We are sort of reverse engineering something that already exists. Imagine taking a car apart to unravel how it works, without having that prior knowledge of how the car works. That’s what we do with genetics in the lab.”
“A lot of genes have a second job – it's like they moonlight. How cool is that? These genes have a well-characterized function but turn out to have a second one. Cells are very efficient in that sense. They’re probably more complex than we can ever understand in our entire lifetime.”
His move to the Netherlands has been eye-opening for him. “Montreal is quite European to North American standards. But people think differently here. There are different attitudes towards work-life balance, for example.” And then there is this Dutch habit that fits him like a glove: “I’ve been able to bike to work every day since I came here. I love it.”