Trainee Travel Award Enhances Research Experience
By Eleni Kanavas
Graduate students and research fellows are often confronted with expensive costs when looking to participate in national or international conferences. Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) is committed to providing support for trainee activities by offering students financial assistance through the Trainee Travel Award Program to enhance their research experience.
Since 2007, SRI has given 57 awards to trainees engaged in research under the supervision of an SRI scientist. Winners receive $1,000 to cover conference registration fees, accommodations and transportation expenses from the event. Students may apply for the competitive award every year.
Dr. Mihaela Pop, a postdoctoral fellow in medical biophysics, has received the
Trainee Travel Award twice and used it to participate in two international
conferences. She is working with Dr.
Graham Wright, director of the Schulich
Heart Research Program and professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto. Here, she describes her learning experience and the skills she's gained through the process.
What is your research focus?
My research is focused on using biomedical imaging
and cardiac computer models to characterize the substrate of abnormal rhythms
developed by patients who suffered a heart attack. I specifically work on
building 3-D MR (magnetic
resonance) image-based computer models and their experimental validation
using state-of-the-art electrophysiology tools. Such predictive models allow us
to have a 'virtual' look into the heart and help us understand how the abnormal
electrical waves propagate and generate high heart rhythms, potentially lethal.
These models will be soon integrated into clinical applications, with final
aims to help diagnose and plan therapy for these patients, as well as to
predict therapy outcome.
How would you describe your experience with the travel award?
I am very grateful for receiving the award twice. It helped
ease the financial burden associated with travelling to an international
conference. I received the first award when I was a PhD graduate student and
was fortunate to participate as a scholar in an International Summer School on
Biomedical Imaging, organized by EMBS (Engineering
in Medicine and Biology Society) in Berder, France. This biennial event
brings together world-renowned teachers and research leaders in the biomedical
imaging field, for an intense week of lectures, seminars as well as
presentations from the participating scholars. The school's objectives are to
provide up-to-date, state-of-the-art knowledge in emerging areas, and to
address important issues dealing with complex, multivariate systems and with
rapidly evolving technological fields, from basic to applied research.
What conference did you attend the following year?
I presented at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society held in Boston,
Massachusetts. The meeting brings together over 6,000 biophysicists in academia
and industry. My presentation was on optical mapping of ventricular
fibrillation in infarcted hearts, an experimental method used to obtain
detailed activation maps of the heart, from which we can better understand the
causes of abnormal excitation occurring in hearts with myocardial infarct
(following a heart attack).
How did presenting at the conferences improve your skills?
I really enhanced my professional development and research capabilities as an individual scientist. Moreover, I had the opportunity to present my research work, and discuss and start collaborations with several international senior and junior researchers, and obtain positive feedback from colleagues working in the field.
Did you receive any guidance from your supervisor?
Yes; Dr. Wright has always guided and mentored me in every
aspect of my research, including thorough preparation for conference
presentations. It is a tradition in our group that we always rehearse the
presentations with our colleagues and supervisor and prepare answers for
What advice do you have for other trainees?
Apply for this award because it helps pay the
costs associated with participation at conferences and workshops. It's an
opportunity for students to present their work and learn about leading-edge
technology, as well as to meet prospective collaborators and employers.
For more information, visit www.sunnybrook.ca/research/?page=sri_ed_home or contact Merle Casci, coordinator, SRI Trainee Centre at 416-480-5741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.