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Sunnybrook Research Institute celebrates summer students at poster competition

October 28, 2011

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By Eleni Kanavas

Forty-two summer students presented their hospital-based experiments at the annual Best Summer Research Project competition sponsored by Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI). The event took place August 18 at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

It was the last one to be organized using the "old" discipline structure.

Students showcased their discoveries to judges and onlookers with posters that illustrated and explained the research methods, observations and results of the experiments they developed with their supervisors.

Through hands-on research training, the four-month summer student program gives students an opportunity to conduct intensive research in the labs and work with SRI scientists. The placements aim to provide high school and university students a unique research experience that promotes the postgraduate environment as a prospective career in science. Students attend a weekly seminar series to learn about the research focus of scientists from across platforms and programs, and participate in the end-of-summer research project competition.

This year's competition represented the disciplines of clinical epidemiology (CE), clinical integrative biology (CIB), imaging, and molecular and cellular biology (MCB). Of the 42 entries, six were from CE, 23 from CIB, seven from imaging and six from MCB. Judges from each of the disciplines selected a winner. Four students took top honours. There were second-place and third-place winners in CIB due to the number of participants in this discipline.

"The posters we see here today are very high quality and students are doing a variety of work that is interesting and quite impressive," said Dr. Yana Yunusova, an associate scientist in CIB who was one of the judges. "This is a training opportunity for students to see what you can do in research, and the goal is to teach them what research is all about."

Dr. Michael Julius, vice-president of research at Sunnybrook, congratulated the students on their hard work and announced the winners at the end of the event.

Fahima Dossa, who was supervised by Dr. Sandra Black, director of the Brain Sciences Research Program, placed first in CIB for her project, "Associations between white matter hyperintensities, brain atrophy and cognition in Alzheimer's disease." Dossa is a second-year medical student at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and has been working in Black's lab for the past two summers.

"Through this experience, I had the opportunity to learn about novel techniques in imaging research, as well as build on my understanding of various neuropsychiatric test measures," Dossa said. "Members of my lab were extremely supportive and always ready to lend a hand or an explanation when one was needed."

Takeshi Goda travelled from Kyoto, Japan to participate in the summer research program. Supervised by SRI scientist and oncologist Dr. Urban Emmenegger, Goda placed first in MCB for his project, "Study of differential treatment sensitivity of autophagy-competent versus autophagy-deficient prostate cancer cells." He is a fourth-year medical student at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine.

"I'm very happy and surprised to win this award," Goda said. "My experience working at Sunnybrook this summer has been the most memorable, and I had a lot of fun presenting my poster to everyone today."

First-place winners received $500, individualized awards and a certificate of excellence. Their names will be engraved on display plaques at SRI. In addition to receiving a certificate of excellence, the second-place winner received $300 and the third-place winner received $200.

Other award winners include:

  • Amy Qu (first-place, imaging, supervised by Dr. Kullervo Hynynen): "Characterizing spatial impulse response and bandwidth of single-element therapeutic ultrasound transducers."
  • Raman Tatla (first-place, CE, supervised by Dr. Sunil Verma): "A review of phase III clinical trials in metastatic breast cancer: clinical endpoints and quality of life."
  • Hamid Ebrahimi (second-place, CIB, supervised by Dr. Cari Whyne): "Optimization of a quantitative multilevel tracking tool for the metastatic spine."
  • Tiffany Scarcelli (third-place, CIB, supervised by Drs. Isabelle Aubert and Kullervo Hynynen): "The effects of MRI-guided focused ultrasound on glial cells and behaviour in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease."

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