CBR Research Day 2018: In Review

Stefanie NovakowskiBy Stefanie Novakowski, PhD Candidate, Kastrup Lab

On Thursday, August 16, the Centre for Blood Research hosted their annual Research Day, an afternoon event recognizing the achievements of those involved in the CBR Summer Studentship Program. The program provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to undertake a basic or clinic research project by partnering with CBR researchers. This year the CBR supported 32 students across 20 labs. Sarah Popple, an undergraduate student partnered with the Devine Lab, appreciated the unique experience the program provides.

“I never thought I would have the opportunity to be involved in this level of research at this stage of my education.”

The day kicked off with each student giving a 2.5 minute, 4-slide PowerPoint presentation outlining their project. While most researchers would struggle with this time limit, the students did an impressive job of giving succinct yet informative talks. Their work highlighted the breadth of research at the CBR, from investigating diseases such as age-related macular degeneration to developing new tools for cellular engineering. The best presentation was selected by the students, and this year the award went to Kaelin Fleming (Devine Lab). Kaelin began her talk by thanking her lab’s ‘divine’ members, before describing her investigation into possible protein biomarkers to monitor red blood cell storage lesion.

Farah Alibay Research Day

CBR Research Day 2018 keynote speaker Dr. Farah Alibay from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The student talks were followed by the presentation of the Neil Mackenzie Mentorship Excellence Award, given in memory of Dr. Neil Mackenzie, a former post-doctoral fellow in the Bromme Lab. This year’s recipient was Dr. Fred Rosell, a Research Associate in the lab of Dr. Natalie Strynadka, and a longtime participant in the CBR. Fred was recognized for his “passion for science” and willingness to “always be there to talk, science or life”. In accepting the award, he described how he is driven by the interest students show in their work, particularly when they take the time to ask questions.

Next was the keynote speaker, Dr. Farah Alibay, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Alibay provided a fascinating overview of NASA’s InSight Mission, a lander currently on its way to Mars to study the interior of the planet. She spoke of the importance of mentorship, recalling how she was inspired when she was growing up, by Governor General Julie Payette, a former astronaut. During the entertaining and inspiring talk, Dr. Alibay shared her own words of wisdom with the students: “If there’s something you really want, go for it, or else you will regret it.”

Following the talks, both undergraduate and graduate students from the CBR presented their research during the afternoon, where their posters were scored by fellow graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research staff. This year, the top undergraduate poster presenter was Nima Derakhshan (Rossi Lab), who investigated novel roles for the growth factor VEGFα during tissue repair. The top graduate poster presenter was Bryan Lin (Pryzdial Lab), who is studying the role of tissue factor after it integrates onto blood-borne viruses. The day concluded with the presentation of the awards, and a special thank you to Julie Kora, the Education Program Manager at the CBR, for her dedication and hard work in the past year, including helping to organize this year’s Research Day. As Nancy Yang, a summer student with the Coté lab said, “Julie was adorable and amazing!”.

Finally, we wish to thank all the sponsors of CBR Research Day, whose contributions not only were critical for this event, but were essential in providing support for all those 30+ students who worked in labs and clinics throughout the summer….the future generations of scientists and clinicians!

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