SFU Undergraduate Researcher: Aleksandra Dojnov

Introducing Aleksandra Dojnov from the department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology!


Name: Aleksandra Dojnov
Year: 3rd Year
Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology
Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Robinovitch

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up/ finish undergrad?
A: The human body has always been interesting to me. I swam competitively as a kid and, because of this, spent a lot of time at the physiotherapists. I found these sessions with my physiotherapist interesting so when it came to apply for university, I applied to SFU’s Kinesiology major with the goal of becoming a physiotherapist. As I progressed through my degree, I realized I liked biomechanics and building things a lot, so I searched graduate schools related to my interests. I found a prosthetics program and have wanted to go into prosthetics since then. In the future, I hope to make neuro-prosthetics and wearable sensors.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: Last September I started volunteering in the IPML lab. This opportunity got me more interested in research so, when I started applying for co-op jobs, I decided to apply for an 8-month co-op in the lab. I ended up getting the job and, as part of my co-op, I get the opportunity to work on a research project.

Q: What are you researching?
A: We are looking at the associations between fall characteristics of older adults in long-term care facilities and their injury patterns. Previous research has investigated either the associations between impact and other fall characteristics or between fall characteristics and injury patterns using data collected from the faller, but this has not been very accurate. We’re looking into injury patterns using data collected via video camera footage, so our data should produce new, and more accurate, results.

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?


Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: What both excites and scares me the most in my field is the direction we’re heading towards creating cyborgs. The equipment available to enhance the human body is rapidly improving. With these quick advances in technology, it may become hard to use technology only for good. I think we may be seeing a hopefully benevolent, cyborg in the very near future.


SFU Undergrad Researcher: Iqra Yaseen

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


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!


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! 


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


SFU Undergrad Researcher: Shayda Swann

Introducing Shayda Swann from the Faculty of Health Sciences!


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?

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!


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.

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 10.14.09 PM


Introducing the Cover for Issue 2!

We are very pleased to officially reveal the cover design of SFU SURJ’s Second Issue!

We received many submissions from across the lower mainland this year, and we are blown away by the artistic talent we’ve witnessed! So, without further adieu….

The Winning Design, by Ryan L.8

“For the image i used for the word “SURJ”, it was a microscopic illustration of bacteria which I altered from its original blue/green hue to a more dark red/purple/pink hue to match with the overall colour of the cover. The ‘cut-out’ design is also meant to symbolize a sense of unknown for the nature of science and the need for research. The major image is a close up of weathered and exposed wood which i also altered it to a more red-ish hue, and for the shadows, i gave it slight blue hue to make the grains ‘pop’ more.

The overall cover is designed with the classic/old-school textbook in mind. After completing the cover, I also realized that I was subconsciously inspired by the “Scientific American” magazine. Other details such as the banner at the top was just a simple yet elegant solution to an awkward space which I felt it completed the design in a subtle way. And I used a similar dark red colour taken from the images for the banner since red is also the colour for SFU and to also keep the colour unified across the whole cover.”


Below, we would like to also feature the other fantastic submissions we received! **Please note the designs are in no particular order

By: Grace L.4

“The image this cover depicts is a cross section of an eye from a high school science poster from the 1980s. As an element of design, the circle contains many connotations which I want to communicate. Concepts of totality, eternity, and universality are all connoted when a circle is used. These concepts are reflective of science. To puruse studies and careers in science, to research, to analyze data, to share results is to have a desire to find total and undisputable truths of the universe. Thus using imagery of an eye was also a conscious decision. An eye carries connotations of knowledge and wisdom. The cross section image allows the design to be more abstract, but still carry great meaning”


By: Clarissa M.2

*no description provided

By: Serge K. 14

“This little project is an exploration of the human skeleton as well as a conceptualized look at what medical interfaces may look like and how medical UI can help identify areas under stress.

A holographic scan and rendering of the skeleton would allow a practitioner to adjust the display, allowing to zoom in on areas of interest and allow for a better and easier inspection of the issue and diagnosis. Such image processing and analysis technology would allow practitioners and scientists to extract important information from analyzed images in real time.”

By: Jennifer L. 5

“For my cover design, I picked a micrograph of uranium in granite from a ~20 year old issue of the journal Scientific American. I felt that the photo contained elements of scientific observations, geology/earth sciences, chemistry, and physics, while showing the blue, green, purple, and pink of the the SURJ logo. Due to colourful background, I kept all the text clean, san-serif, and white.

Uranium in granite is usually concentrated in a few of the less abundant minerals rather than being evenly scattered throughout the major minerals. This transmitted-light micrograph (magnifications about 50 diameters) shows a slice of granite only 0.03 millimetres thick. The colours result from the interference of the transmitted light waves, which are broken into two components travelling at different speeds as they pass through the the crystalline materials of the sample and through a single-crystal glass plate. Most of the uranium in the field of view is contained in a crystal of zircon or zirconium silicate (ZrSiO4), which appears as the small dark blue grain at the centre.”


By: Cherlene C.1

Interdisciplinary Interdependence:

“The design was inspired by SFU’s Architectural design which facilitates interdisciplinary work through design incorporated buildings housing several departments. As such, I incorporated images representative of biology (double stranded DNA), chemistry (structures of organic chemicals), and physics (action and reaction). The thematic blend of translucence and blue reflects the interdisciplinary interdependence, as chemical elements are the building blocks for DNA which are the building blocks to life, and where action and reaction force pairs operate across molecular and organism levels as in myosin and actin fibers generating muscle contraction and the oar stroke of a rower propelling the boat forward by displacing the water backwards. In addition, the pun on the word “reaction” refers not only to the action reaction force pairs, but also to chemical reactions!”


By: Lucas L.


*no description received


By: Jasmine W.15

“My design is inspired by the solar system. It contains a vintage vinyl record player with a futuristic twist on it, with the Sun in the centre and the eight planets in order orbiting around the lines of the disk. The tonearm and headshell also represent a telescope hovering above the planets. The pitch adjustment icons are moons and the 45 adapter is a meteoroid.”

By: Emma Y.3

“The imagery I chose is a photograph of a nebulous area of outer space, specifically the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud which is the birth place of numerous new stars. I found this image from the July 1982 edition of Scientific American. Going into this design process, I was looking for images of the natural world that elicit a sense of wonder and discovery. Instead of automatically being associated with the wilderness or extreme outdoor sport, my goal was to find an image that was easily identified as scientific. To me, the purpose of science is to try to solve the unanswered questions of our world, and what environment is more filled with mystery as complex as that of outer space? I found a few galactic images in old scientific publications, however I was instantly drawn to this picture due to its brilliant colours which agree so well with the colours in the SURJ logo (vivid blues, pinks, and purples, with just a hint of light green in the bottom left corner of the image). I decided that because the picture is so bright and busy, having a solid, clean title element to centre the design would help focus the eye on the most important aspect of the cover (the title and logo). Because light green is featured quite heavily in the logo and is only slightly visible in the picture, I chose to match the text “Science Undergraduate Research Journal” to the green in the logo just to tie back into the original colour palette. Additionally, I think it’s very appropriate that a picture depicting the birth place of stars is on the cover of a publication filled with new research and discovery – the birth place of the innovation of the future if you will.”

The next 5 designs are photos taken from the Trottier Observatory here are SFU! These images are phenomenal and provide us with a first hand flimpse into outer space.

The following 5 image designs were submitted by Sarah K.12

NGC 869 Star Cluster:

Before you lies a collection of 7,600 year-old starlight. This particular sample of stellar photons have traveled for longer than mankind’s written history. Take a moment to breathe that in – you are looking at the purest mediums of history. You are looking at an astro-photograph, an image depicting the visual light spectrum of astral objects.

This is a close up of the 12.5 million year old star cluster, NGC 869. Together with its partner, NGC 884 (just out of this field of vision), they make the aptly-named “Double Cluster”, which resides in the northern sky constellation, Perseus, 7,600 light years away from Earth. The Double Cluster cannot be seen by the naked eye, though it is a spectacular binocular object in dark rural skies, and its beauty can be uncovered in suburban skies using a telescope.

The image was taken at the Simon Fraser University Trottier Observatory on November 29, 2015. Its exposure time was not very long compared to other deep sky images, a mere 8 minutes in total! This image was meant to be a test shot for training, but with some post-imaging work it turned out to be better than I had expected and is my first posted astro-photograph. Four filters were used (luminance, red, green, and blue), each at an exposure of just 120 seconds, with 2×2 binning.



The Bubble Nebula:

This is an image of the Bubble Nebula and it happens to be the birthplace of a future star. The Bubble Nebula is an emission nebula, meaning this beautiful gaseous structure emits its own light due to the ionized nature of the gas. The predominantly red colour of this interstellar cloud is due to the ionization and light emission of hydrogen gas, the most common element in the universe. Emission nebula, like the Bubble Nebula, are areas of star formation and can even be found in the spiral arms of some galaxies, like the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). The Bubble nebula is located in the constellation, Cassiopeia, about 7,000 light years away from Earth. It’s estimated that the Bubble is about 300,000 years old. The most amazing aspect of this image is the spherical, bubble-like structure; the diameter of that bubble is 7 light years, meaning it would take 7 years for a light-speed object to travel from one end of the Bubble to the other! That’s almost two times the distance from our Solar System to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri!

This photo was captured and processed by Sarah Savić Kallesøe, a science undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada on September 29, 2016. The total exposure for this image is roughly 3.5 hours, using Red, Green, Blue, Luminance filters. Each frame had an exposure of 120 seconds. The L frames were captured with 2×2 binning and the colours were taken with 4×4 binning. In the future, I plan to incorporate the Hydrogen Alpha narrowband frames into the image to produce a more vibrantly red image and portray the presence of hydrogen gas in the nebula.



The Dumbbell Nebula:

This curious celestial structure is called the “Dumbbell Nebula”, named after its visible light resemblance to a dumbbell weight. The Dumbbell Nebula is a planetary nebula, which forms as a layer of gas expands from an aging star. This particular planetary nebula is predicted to be about 1,200 light years away, spans about 4.5 light years across, and is located in the Vulpecula (“Little Fox”) constellation. The Dumbbell nebula is second brightest nebula in our sky (the brightest being the Helix Nebula, located in the Aquarius constellation). Take a moment to think about this: the light captured for this image has travelled for over a thousand years, which means Europe was still in the Dark Ages when this light left the Dumbbell Nebula.

This image is a representation of the visible light emitted by the Dumbbell Nebula and was taken by SFU students Sarah Savić Kallesøe, Zeena Aburgeba, Ryne Watterson, and Rohit Grover. The processing of the captured image was done by Dr. Howard Trottier. This shot was taken between the late hours July 28 2016 at the Simon Fraser University Trottier Observatory. The exposure time per frame was 120 seconds and the total exposure time was 2.5 hours. The luminance frames were taken in 2X2 binning, whereas the red, green, and blue frames were taken in 4X4 binning.



Lunar surface:

This is the view of the Moon from the telescope at the Trottier Observatory! Unlike most astro-images display here, this image was actually taken by a cell phone camera. This image was taken on February 2, 2017 by Sarah Savić Kallesøe, during a rare moment of steady sky conditions between snow storms. Should you visit the observatory and observe the moon through the telescope, this is similar to what you would see. Mind you, it is not advisable to view the moon without appropriate lunar filters if the moon is more than half illuminated. For your reference, the Moon is about 1.3 light seconds away from Earth.

It turns out that this image captured a number of Apollo landing sites! The markings on the image indicate the following sites: Apollo 11 (the first moon landing with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in 1969), Apollo 15 (1971), and Apollo 17 (the last and longest Moon stay, 1972). It is a humbling moment to gaze upon an astronomical body from which a handful of humans gazed right back at our tiny planet



The Whirlpool Galaxy:

Welcome to the Whirlpool Galaxy, home to more than 100 billion stars! Much like Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way, the Whirlpool Galaxy is a spiral galaxy. The distinct blue spiral arms of the galaxy are the sites of star formation and the distance across the Whirlpool Galaxy is estimated to be roughly 60 thousand light years. The Whirlpool Galaxy is a mere 30 million light year trip away and is located in the constellation Canes Venatici of the Northern hemisphere sky. The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most iconic spiral and brightest galaxies and one can discover the beauty of the it with just a pair of binoculars under dark sky conditions.

The Whirlpool is also a prime example of galactic cannibalism! Notice there are actually two galaxies in this image, the smaller circular structure below the larger spiral galaxy. The gravitational pull of the larger galaxy is actually pulling the smaller one towards it. Over time, they will eventually become one unit. A similar galactic collision is predicted to be in the fates of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and our nearest spiral galaxy neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy. Not to worry, this will happen far after our lifetimes.

This image was captured on the night of May 6, 2016 at the Simon Fraser University Trottier Observatory in Burnaby, Canada. The total exposure of the image is about 3 hours with 120 seconds per frame. The Red, Green, and Blue frames were captured with 4X4 binning and the Luminance frames with 2X2 binning

SFU Undergrad Researcher: William Shen

Introducing William Shen of the Departments of Chemistry and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry!


Name: William Shen
Faculty: Chemistry and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Year: Fourth
Supervisor: Dr. Hogan Yu

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: My research is focused on modifying surfaces to create superhydrophobic and cytotoxic materials with silanes and nanoparticles. My original project was meant to impart hydrophobic properties onto materials but I wanted to direct the applications towards the biology side of things so I implemented antimicrobial properties in addition. Having volunteered in health care for a few years, one of the main things that I noticed is that outbreaks are pretty common and when they do happen, quality of life takes a major nosedive. If I can develop a simple flexible process to modify materials that can limit bacteria derived nosocomial infections through contact transfers, then it would be beneficial to everyone. Another application that I have also spent a lot of time developing are durable superhydrophobic and antimicrobial textiles.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: I could potentially be doing anything from creating thin films of polymers on surfaces, synthesizing nanoparticles, performing Kirby-Bauer and other susceptibility tests, or characterizing and interpreting data from instruments like contact angle goniometers and scanning electron microscopy. I don’t have much of a normal everyday routine in the lab in terms of the experiments I plan.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: I have quite a few favourite courses but I would say CHEM 459 – Special Topics in Organic Chemistry is my favourite. The course was taught by David Vocadlo and the topic that he chose was chemical biology. When I started university, I chose MBB as my major because I loved biology and chemistry. I was disappointed that MBB never quite went into the chemistry of anything in any sort of detail…it was sort of just glossed over for the most part. Fast forward to the end of second year and I found out about the Chemistry and MBB joint program and decided to switch into it. It wasn’t until I took chemical biology that I felt like there was a course that satisfied what I wanted originally. It took everything great about chemistry, everything great about molecular biology and biochemistry, and blended it into a different field that I loved. I would definitely recommend the course with Dr. Vocadlo to anyone if you get the chance.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: A scanning electron microscope because it’s my favourite characterization technique by far for materials and who wouldn’t want to be part electron gun???

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Elon Musk because I always admire someone who has the guts to take on high-risk high reward scenarios where you could potentially lose everything. Plus, he called his tunnel boring company “The Boring Company.” A+

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Breaking very expensive equipment.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Cherlene Emma Chang

Introducing Cherlene Emma Chang of the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology!


Name: Cherlene Emma Chang
Department: Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology
Year: Third
Supervisor: Dr. Tom Claydon

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: A bioinformatical and clinical researcher. Computation is an increasingly invaluable skillset in the life sciences to quantify
scientific observations, while clinical relevance engages research with the treatment and management of patients to improve their
quality of life.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I got involved in research through the BPK Co-op Program. Co-op is great for students to explore their career options and gain
valuable experience in their respective fields.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: I have modelled the effects on the cardiac action potential as a result of the action of low pH on hERG potassium channels.
Myocardial ischemia occurs when blockage of coronary arteries reduces blood flow, preventing adequate oxygen perfusion. One
major consequence is acidosis, a reduction in local pH, contributing to cardiac arrhythmia. Acidosis profoundly affects hERG
potassium channels which provide a major repolarizing drive in the heart, and may suppress the protective mechanism of hERG
channels in preventing premature heartbeats.

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: This summer, my project is on zebrafish (Danio rerio) hearts as an excellent model of human cardiac electrophysiology. I will
use zebrafish hearts to study the action potential duration and cytoplasmic calcium handling using optical mapping techniques. I
aim to assess the effects of acidosis on irregular heartbeats using computer simulations.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: I strike a balance between computational analysis and running experiments, where I write code in MATLAB and record ionic
currents in frog eggs (Xenopus laevis oocytes). I find that analyzing the data I collected firsthand enriches my research experience
through offering a well-rounded perspective on how each task fits in the bigger picture.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: Introduction to Biological Physics (PHYS 347). Specifically, the electric circuit model of action potential propagation along a
neuron offered a fresh quantitative perspective on physiology.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: If I were a scientific lab instrument, I would be a computer. I enjoy modeling experimental data to equations, generating figures
for publications, and preparing powerpoint slides for presentations.

Q: What’s the funniest thing in research that’s happened to you?
A: During the 2017 BPK Research Day, I tripped down the stairs in the auditorium in my three-inch platform boots and spilled water
on myself. I laughed it off. Surprisingly, this incident calmed me down for my upcoming three-minute thesis and poster

Q: What scares you the most in research?
A: The uncertainty of the future. Researchers apply for grants to get funded. Oftentimes there are more up-and-coming researchers
than grants available. Nonetheless, I will put my best foot forward in securing future grants.