SFU Undergrad Researcher: Iqra Yaseen

Introducing Iqra Yaseen from the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry!

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Name: Iqra Yaseen
Year: 3rd year
Major: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Supervisor: Dr. Peter Unrau

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: Hopefully something related to the medical field, as a surgeon, pharmacist or even just research. I’m very interested in how drugs and treatments work in the body.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I was able to do a laboratory internship at an industrial facility in my hometown, there I learnt a lot about lab work and research. Therefore coming back in the fall for my 2nd year, I looked up some research labs at SFU that interested me. With a lot of new work in RNA, I decided to contact Dr. Unrau and he accepted me. 

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: I have been working with a PhD candidate to select for an Ribozyme that acts as a polymerase, except it has a clamping mechanism. This way if the clamp works then it doesn’t let go of the template. 

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: Our lab is a wet lab, so most of our reactions are run through gels. Since we work with RNA we usually run acrylamide and agarose gels to obtain results.

Q: What if your favorite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: It was the Chem 286 lab, as I found it pretty easy and quite interesting.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Tiffany Barszczewski

Introducing Tiffany Barszczewski from the Department of Biomedical Physiology!

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Name: Tiffany Barszczewski
Year: 3rd year
Major: Biomedical Physiology
Supervisor: Dr. Glen Tibbits

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I think, more than anything else, I want to be a mother. A good one. Both of my parents worked really hard to come to Canada and to establish themselves here. Despite their challenges, they raised three healthy, loving children. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I will be able to balance family life with practicing medicine, becoming a professor, or whatever else I might decide to do. It will come with its trials and hurdles, but I believe it is possible to find that balance between what I want at home and what I want as a professional.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I had recently switched into the Biomedical Physiology program and wanted to be a more involved student. A friend recommended I email some professors in the department to see if they needed help in their labs. I looked up the research profiles of the professors, and I was interested in almost all of them, so I sent quite a few emails asking if anyone needed a volunteer in the lab for the summer. I received a lot of polite no’s, which I totally understood: I had only taken one course in BPK, my GPA wasn’t the most coveted, and I was just at the end of my second year. Did I seem promising over email? Probably not. When I received a reply from Dr. Glen Tibbits to meet and get acquainted with two of his PhD students, I was shocked. The learning experience I had that summer was one that I will never forget. I began to really see the meaningful purpose behind the research going on in the lab, and I even got my name on a poster they presented at a conference in Copenhagen! Currently, I am completing a Directed Studies semester with my mentor (Alison, you’re the best!), and will soon be presenting my own research poster at BPK Research Day.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: Cardiac troponin complex plays a significant role in regulating contractile strength of the heart through calcium (Ca)-binding. Some mutations in troponin’s three subunits can alter this property of the cardiomyocytes, leading to arrhythmias and, even more unfortunately, sudden cardiac death. I perform E. coli recombinant methods and purify the troponin subunits with a couple of mutations using various chromatography techniques. I will eventually combine these subunits together to make reconstituted thin filament and examine the changes in Ca binding kinetics of mutations in the thin filament using stopped-flow apparatus. The mutations I am looking at are related to the sudden infant death syndrome research Tibbits Lab has been working on. Going back to wanting to be a good mother one day, some people do not have it as easy. Some only get a few days or months to be parents before their children pass away unexpectedly. Was it something they had done? Could there have been a way to prevent this from happening? Will this happen again the next time they have a baby? The answer is still unknown, and I cannot imagine the pain these people must go through, topped with a lack of closure. I hope to see promise in the future for SIDS research so these parents can get the answers they deserve.

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: I’ll be studying for the MCAT. I have tried to push the thought of it out of my mind. I hope to pop into the lab a couple times a week too. I love being able to clear my head a bit by doing some pipetting here and there, and I’d probably miss the smell of me killing E. coli with bleach.

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Marie Curie. Truly a legend. Two Nobels, died by her life’s work, and a woman of science pushing through a time where the world was much less friendly towards women. She’s also Polish, like me. Whenever Marie is mentioned in class or in a textbook, I can’t help but smile.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: The first thing that came to mind was the Bunsen burner. Fire scares me, but I have to work closely with the flame when I’m working with E. Coli. Honestly though, I am afraid of letting Dr. Tibbits down. I’ve worked really hard to understand the background material related to our research, especially because when I started volunteering, I hadn’t taken his course or any other higher physiology courses. He probably does not have super high expectations for me, but I constantly want to show him my growth, hard work, and passion for learning.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: The -80 C fridge? It’s not really a lab instrument, but I guess I can relate to it the most. Pretty cold, keeps things pent up inside for a really long time, and ruins people’s lives when it stops working properly.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Matthew Garayt

Introducing Matthew Garayt from the Department of Physics! 

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Name: Matthew Garayt
Major: Applied Physics, Honors
Supervisor: Dr. Michael Seear, BC Children’s Hospital

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: Right now, I am still exploring my possibilities, but I would like to work in high-
technology one day, whether it be more at the research level, or the
refining/engineering level. Ultimately, I would like to use the knowledge I have
gained so far in my degree in whatever field I end up in.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I applied to the Science Co-op program and once my job search was underway, I
saw the posting for the position and was immediately intrigued as the description
was not very long. I applied, interviewed, and received an offer in short order.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: We research possible alternatives to the traditional diagnosis of respiratory
illnesses in young children. Current accepted methods are not accurate for
children younger than six years old, so based on other research we analyze data
of each patient, collected from a medical monitor, by putting it through multiple
mathematical and statistical algorithms. After we have enough patients, we can
try to draw conclusions on what analyses yield the best results as compared to
the traditional tests.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: Arrive at the respiratory clinic early in the morning, continue researching new
methods that might be of use, analyze any raw data that might exist, and take
patients’ vitals’ signs for analysis if we have any for that day.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: I quite enjoyed Mathematical Methods in Theoretical Physics taught by Professor
Howard Trottier as the course introduced many new, helpful mathematical
concepts that I would later use in other classes while also studying myriad
physical phenomena in a fun way.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: I would have to say a laser as I always try to be as precise as possible; people’s
health or quality of life may be at stake.

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field? Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 5.28.04 PM

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Maybe not a scientist in the truest sense, but Elon Musk. You cannot go wrong
with PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and the Hyperloop.

Q: What’s the funniest thing in the lab that’s happened to you?
A: Nothing really funny, but it always seems to be that whenever I need to talk to my
supervisor he would be out of his office, somewhere unknown in the hospital…

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: The tests we perform on people may one day help diagnose real disorders and
diseases, so if there is a bug in the code somewhere there could be bad
consequences.

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SFU Undergrad Researcher: Shayda Swann

Introducing Shayda Swann from the Faculty of Health Sciences!

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Name: Shayda Swann
Year: 4th year
Major: Health Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Mark Brockman

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I want to be a paediatrician and would like to specialize in paediatric infectious disease.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: My first research experience was BISC 272 – Special Topics in Biological Research (shout out Dr. Kevin Lam)

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: I am researching the integration site of HIV into T-cells and how this impacts viral reactivation from latency

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: Usually, I like to get started with my wet lab work right away, and then spend the rest of the day looking at my data while the experiments run. Also, lots of coffee breaks and walks with the rest of the lab are a must!

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: My favourite course is definitely MBB 428 – definitely take it if you have an interest in infectious disease!

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?
A: The gels of my failed PCR…

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Does my high school chemistry teacher count? (shout out Mr. Henderson)
What scares you the most in the lab or the field?

Q: What’s the funniest thing in the lab that’s happened to you?
A: I once connected the electrodes backwards on the electrophoresis box and ended up running my samples off the gel.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Definitely the centrifuge.

 

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Melissa Vermette

Introducing Melissa Vermette from the Department of Chemistry

MelissaVermettePhotoName: Melissa Vermette
Year: 3rd year
Major: Chemistry

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: An anesthesiologist – however, this whole research gig is getting interesting.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: It started by enrolling in BISC 272 – A special topics in biological science research class. As predominantly 2nd year students we worked in teams and designed our own research projects. I learned an extraordinary amount of invaluable techniques and knowledge about research. I highly recommend taking it.
I also had the opportunity of working in Tony William’s lab and at the Animal Care Facility in the Summer. I gained experience working in the lab, in the field, and with some pretty awesome people. I am thankful to be continuing working with them again this semester.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: Over the summer, in BISC 272, my team and I decided to conduct research on copper’s antimicrobial property. Specifically, the effect surface texture had on its effectiveness to kill bacteria. Currently, I am researching the physiological effects and quality of avian offspring whose parents were subjected to exercise training.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: BISC 272 because it was very different than any other courses I’ve taken. Analytical chemistry is also a close favourite because of the fancy, expensive machinery we used in the labs.

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?
A: 

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I am sure many chemists can relate.

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Albert Einstein – but really, who doesn’t? I think the most I admire about him is his determination to come up with an alternative to a theory many other scientists had accepted (although unsuccessfully). One of my favourite exchanges is between Einstein and Bohr. Einstein did not agree when Max Born proposed mechanics could be understood as a probability without casual explanation, to which Einstein stated, “God does not play dice” and Bohr replied, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do”.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Centrifuges. They are incredibly useful but absolutely terrifying.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Matthew Nguyen

Introducing Matthew Nguyen of the School of Computing Science and the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry!

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Name: Matthew Nguyen
Faculty: Computing Science & Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Year of Study: 3rd
Supervisor: Dr. Leonid Chindelevitch of the Department of Computing Science

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: Back then, I was just an MBB major with some programming interests. At the end of my 2nd year, I decided to email some bioinformatics prof whose research I was interested in. I had only taken 3 CMPT courses, but Dr. Chindelevitch still took me in. Since I lacked the background, I had to do a lot of self-learning but I’m loving it. Working in the lab pretty much solidified my decision to transfer to the joint major, and now here I am!

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far? (What is your research about?)
A: I am finishing up a large scale project to create a computational framework for the classification of pathogens into epidemiologically related groups using genomic data. Specifically, we are combining data from single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and copy number variations (CNVs) to cluster different samples of a pathogen in order to understand their relatedness. Currently, I am working on the implementation and analysis of various clustering algorithms to establish the best one. Upon completion, the project will be integrated into an open-source platform (IRIDA) to help public health authorities analyze epidemics.
With the end in sight, I am also starting up a new project: the use of machine learning methods in order to predict antibiotic resistance in tuberculosis.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: I technically don’t need to be in the lab to do any work. Since all of my work is done on the servers at the BC Genomes Science Center, I can work from anywhere with internet, even at home or on my phone! But I still enjoy being in the lab as it is useful: I can seek assistance or bounce ideas off of my supervisor or the other members of my lab. I’ve also got a sweet setup of dual monitors (I want a third…) and a mechanical keyboard. My work usually consists of writing or debugging code (Python or BASH), running different software and algorithms, analyzing the results (maybe run some statistical analyses with R) and writing documentation.

Q: What’s your favorite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: CMPT 310 with Dr. Maxwell Libbrecht: Artificial Intelligence Survey. AI is one of THE buzzwords right now. Although this is just a survey course, it is a fascinating introduction to a growing field in computing science, a field which became my main research interest. Machine learning is huge in bioinformatics right now, and although I still lack the in-depth knowledge, this course was a refreshing intro to how it all works. I started self-teaching a lot of machine learning after this great intro.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Unexpected results that make no sense are horrible to deal with, especially when I have to use someone else’s program in my pipeline. Did I do something wrong? Is the program I’m using just bad? Maybe if I run it again without changing anything it’ll work…

Q: What is your favorite science joke or meme from your field?
A: I may or may not look at memes too much… I can thank Reddit for that. Shameless plug for /r/programmerhumor.

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SFU Undergrad Researcher: Claudio Feijoo

Introducing Claudio Feijoo of the Department of Mathematics and School of Computing Science!

Name: Claudio Feijoo
Major: Mathematics and Computing Science (Joint)
Year: Fourth
Supervisor: Dr. David Muraki of the Department of Mathematics

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I want to do programming once I am done studying. It has always been a passion of mine and it is very natural for me to code and debug.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I was looking for a co-op position and noticed I could make research count for it so I decided to throw my name for the selection of USRAs.

Q: What are you researching?
A: I am researching for new non-linear forms of a dipole (a travelling wave disturbance in the atmosphere) that satisfies a partial differential equation.

Q: What is a typical day in the lab for you?
A: The day usually starts by scanning some notes to send to my supervisor followed by a lenghty Skype call. After that, I code and test what was discussed in the call.

Q: What’s your favourite SFU course?
A: I would say MATH251 just due to how challenging and useful it is.

Q: What’s your favourite sciene joke or meme from your field?
A: Saw a paper in the bus stop a couple of years ago using the Bad Luck Brian meme with the caption “Wants to take a GPA booster, takes MATH242“.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: I want to say a computer just because I want to become a source of endless information 😛

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Cant say I have any, honestly.

Q: What’s the funniest thing that happened to you in the lab?
A: I worked by myself in any quiet place I could find. This one time, I was in one of the computer labs in the AQ on a skype call. All of a sudden I realized that a class has started while I was distracted on my project! Had to apologize and rush out of there.

Q: What scares you the most when working in the lab or field?
A: The fact that you don’t know whether you are on the right track/got good results. These questions haven’t been answered before so it is always nerve-wracking when you are following a lead.