SFU Undergraduate Researcher: Aleksandra Dojnov

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

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Name: Aleksandra Dojnov
Year: 3rd Year
Major:
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?

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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!

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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: Natalie Maslowski

Introducing Natalie Maslowski of the Department of Biology!

Name: Natalie Maslowski
Major: Biology
Year: 1
Supervisor: Dr. Isabella Cote

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Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: (Short term wise) I am currently aiming to be a part of a biology related research team. (Long term wise), I have always been interested in pursuing a career as a Professor (or some career in academia), when I was much younger I had always been interested in marine biology, so Marine biology Prof?Although I am keeping an open mind towards any possible opportunities in any interesting field, that may come my way.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: The first glimpse I got into anything professionally research related, was when I was in grade 11, I volunteered to work under Dr. Cote, as a part of a science co-op in high-school. There I worked with her graduate students, doing very basic tasks volunteering in their lab. However, this summer I hope to delve further into the world of marine research, as a diving assistant to a graduate student.

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: This summer I will be working as a marine research assistant diver with a graduate student ( Lilly Haines). The project I will be working for, focuses on fish behavior in a particular species. Essentially testing to see how far away across open sand a Damsel fish will swim to get home, before deciding it’s too dangerous. (Further details are still to be announced).

Q: What’s your favorite course you have taken so far in your degree?
A: So far I have really enjoyed BISC 101/102. I can’t choose between them, I loved learning about plant adaptations and their behavioral responses, as well as learning about community ecology and the beautifully complex interactions between each species.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: I am afraid to get really sick, I have bad luck when it comes to getting colds, so I hope I leave that bad luck behind when I get to the Bahamas. However, I also fear dropping an oxygen tank on my toes, those are super heavy!

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Andy Zeng

Introducing Andy Zeng of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry!

Name: Andy Zeng
Major: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Year of Study: Fourth
Supervisors: Angela Brooks Wilson (Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency and SFU BPK) and Benjamin Kwok (Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, Université de Montreal)

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Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: A clinician-scientist! I would ideally see cancer patients 1-2 days/week and spend the rest of my time running a cancer research lab to improve our standard of care. This fall, I’ll be entering the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto for my first 8 years of training towards that career!

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: In first year undergrad, I applied to a bunch of profs to do a summer undergraduate student research award (USRA) with them. Most profs didn’t take me seriously as a first year and didn’t respond, but Angie pretty much offered me a pity interview because it would make for a good learning opportunity. It turned out that I was the only applicant to read her papers before the interview and ask her semi-intelligent questions about it, and that’s how I got the USRA! I used that experience to land an internship in Montreal the following summer, and then finished my thesis in third year summer.

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: I’ll be spending the first half of my summer in Vancouver, brushing up on statistics and bioinformatics and learning the basics of machine learning through online courses (datacamp, coursera, EdX, etc). For the second half of my summer in Toronto, I’ll hopefully be getting involved in research on cancer stem cells and getting started on my PhD research.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far? (What is your research about?)
A: In Angie’s lab at BC Cancer I analyzed the somatic mutational spectrums in mitochondrial DNA (yes, the powerhouse of the cell) of B-Cell Lymphoma patients. We wanted to see if any of these mutations, which affect cell metabolism, contributed to lymphomagenesis. In Ben’s lab at IRIC I designed and ran cell biology experiments testing chemical inhibitors of a cancer-promoting protein on cancer cells.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: MBB426 & 427- The workload for 426 is soul crushing but you walk out of the courses knowing a mind-blowing amount of immunology! But to be honest, I believe that the most enriching learning experiences during undergrad comes from extracurriculars and research.

Q: Favourite science joke or meme from your field?
A: Haemolytic Memes for Anaemic Teens (Facebook Page) is a lot funnier than it should be. Every time I laugh, I’m reminded that I am a huge nerd who appreciates these memes a little too much. It’s odd – these memes somehow manage to make you both smarter and dumber at the same time.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Failure and negative results. It happened in my Montréal work term and it’s inevitable. But if you ask the right questions, understand the larger reason for why you are doing the work, and strive to enjoy the process (being open to learn and genuinely curious about what you’ll discover), then it minimizes the blow.

A quick word of advice for those embarking on a research term:
Your research term is not just a 9-5 job, it’s a learning opportunity that can be far more enriching than a semester of classes. Treat it as a learning opportunity: dive into the literature and put in the same amount of effort into your research as you would in a 5-course semester. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll grow, and you might even get some publications out of it!
 

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Stephanie Lam

Introducing Stephanie Lam of the Faculty of Health Sciences!

Name: Stephanie Lam
Major: Health Sciences
Year of Study: 3rd
Supervisor: Dr. Angela Devlin, UBC Faculty of Medicine

STEPHANIE LAM

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: Pediatrician

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I was particularly interested in medical research and I started to do my own research on areas of research within the faculty of medicine. Luckily, I came across many researchers located in CFRI that researched areas that were very interesting to me and I contacted Dr. Devlin to see if there is anything I could get involved with.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far? (What is your research about?)
A: I am helping out with a human project that aims to understand cardiovascular outcomes that are affected by second-generation antipsychotic treatment. We are also trying to identify biomarkers that can be used to identify children who may be at risk for cardiometabolic side effects.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: DNA/RNA extraction from blood cells, genotyping, blood processing, mouse work

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: The thing that scares me the most in the lab is making a small mistake that could cost the lab a lot of money and time. When working with such tiny amounts of samples, I am often scared that my lab technique is inadequate and won’t give the desired results. With the nature of this project, our samples are often very limited and must be used carefully.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: James Marquis

Next up in our series of brilliant SFU undergrads, we have James Marquis of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry!

Name: James Marquis
Major: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Year of Study: 4th
Supervisor (PI): Dr. Dipankar Sen

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Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I always want to become a biochemist and an innovator who develops better products for not only scientists but also the general public.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I was randomly browsing the SFU biology web page back in my first year here. I saw an advertisement for a research position to analyze avian blood sample. I was just curious what they are doing with bird blood, so I applied and got in. Then I have been working in different labs in both biology and MBB since then.

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: I will be writing a research proposal for a master project that develops new DNA aptamer that catalyze the ruthenium-catalyzed olefin metathesis. It is simply to screen for potential catalytic DNA that can facilitate large-sized ring closing reaction.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far? (What is your research about?)
A: My first lab project was about quantifying red blood cells precursor in avian blood to predict the bird’s oxygen carrying capacity. Then I moved on to a side project that looked that the effect of male bird social behaviour (singing) on female birds breeding phenology and performance. Then I switched to a genetic/developmental biology lab to work on the Wnt/Wingless signaling in Drosophila (fruit flies) in my third year. Right now I am preparing to start my master degree studying the catalytic activity of DNA/RNA.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: I’m usually in the lab around 9am doing lab work till 5pm in the evening, nothing exciting.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: I would the special topic course (MBB420) taught by Dr. Sen / Dr. Hawkins

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: I would be a pipet, because I am a sucker for science.

Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Dr. Peter Schultz. I was very privileged to meet him in person at a conference and he really inspired me to pursue my interest in the biochemistry field.

Q: What’s the funniest thing in the lab that’s happened to you?
A: We dressed up as Christmas trees and worked in the lab during the holiday season one winter, and it was quite funny and memorable.

Q: What scares you the most in the lab or the field?
A: Getting no data from my experiments

SFU Undergrad Researchers: Jennifer Yi

Next up in our series of brilliant SFU researchers, we have Jennifer Yi of the Faculty of Health Sciences!

Name: Jennifer Yi
Year: First Year
Major: Health Sciences, Concetration in Life Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Glen Tibbits

 

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I want to work in the healthcare system or work with World Health Organization.

 

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I got involved in research through a science fair project on Type 2 Diabetes and Interleukin 6 at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute two years ago. I wanted to keep conducting scientific research at a lab at SFU so I applied for a NSERC USRA at Dr. Tibbits’ lab in the SFU Molecular Cardiac Physiology Group this semester.

 

Q: What will you be working on this summer? 
A: I will be working on a project trying to detail how a TNNI mutation may be related to sudden unexpected death in infants in terms of causing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy by arrhythmia.

 

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far? (What is your research about?)
A: So far, I have been busy catching up on knowledge about cardiomyocytes for this summer and learning how to use CRISPR, which is very exciting.

 

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: BISC101: Dr. Megan Barker made this course the best one I’ve taken out of all my classes at SFU.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Ruvini Amarasekera

Next up in our series of brilliant SFU researchers, we have Ruvini Amarasekera of the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology!

Name: Ruvini Amarasekera
Year of Study: 2nd
Major: Biomedical Physiology
PI: Dr. Maureen Ashe, Center for Hip Health and Mobility
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Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I wanted to work in a lab that took a new perspective on healthcare; somewhere I could apply both my physiology and psychology background- and this is what I found! Many people have the misconception that research only entails sitting at a bench pipetting all day, but there is also a clinical side where there’s an opportunity to interact directly with subjects. Research is a very broad field of work and there is something for everyone!
Q: What is your research about?
A: Our research focuses on the psychosocial determinants of health; essentially we realize that healthcare goes far beyond hospitals and doctors’ offices, and we are looking into what those factors are. We want to shift healthcare and medicine to a preventative approach; we want to change the way people live so that they don’t get sick in the first place, instead of only treating people once they are already sick!
Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: This summer I’m very excited to be taking on a project where I’ll be exploring the influence of built and social environments on community mobility, specifically for older adults living in rural communities.
Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: Every day varies; there are some days where I am sitting at a computer doing preliminary data research on the communities we will be studying, there are days where I’m working very closely with my professor or grad students, and in the summer I’ll be going out to these rural communities to work directly with our subjects.
Q: Who is your biggest science crush?
A: Currently, Marc Lewis. I’m reading a book authored by him called “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease” where he presents quite a controversial model of addiction. Lewis is a neuroscientist but perhaps more interestingly, a former addict and he asks the tough questions about how we frame mental illnesses (specifically, addiction). He focuses on the intersections of neurophysiology and sociology and really is making me think about the overlap between the two.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Henry Tran

Next up in our series of brilliant SFU researchers, we have Henry Tran!

Name: Kim Hoang (Henry) Tran
Majors: Behavioural Neuroscience and English
Year of Study: Third
Supervisor: Chris Kennedy

HENRY TRAN

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: Medical Oncologist

 

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: Fabiola, my BISC 101 TA talked about the environmental toxicology research she was doing with Dr. Kennedy and I was really fascinated by it, so I asked Dr. Kennedy to volunteer in his lab.

 

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: This summer I will be studying the lethal and sublethal toxicity of four anti-parasitic chemotherapeutants: ivermectin, SLICE®, Salmosan® and Paramove 50® on marine benthic organisms (crustaceans, bivalves, annelids and echinoderms). In doing so, I hope to address the environmental risks and consequences affiliated with them and how to in turn, to properly manage them for the stewardship of Canada’s coastal areas.

 

Q: What have you been working in your research so far?
A: So far, I’ve been working with Msc. candidate, Kassondra Rhodenizer, on studying the effects of Corexit and bitumen on crustaceans off the coast of B.C. We’ve been analyzing how these shrimp’s feeding behaviour have altered after they have been exposed to these chemicals.

 

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: BPK 205, Human Physiology with Nadine Wicks!

 

Q: What is a typical “day in the life “ in the lab for you?
A: Preparing solutions and then exposing the shrimps in to these solutions.

 

Q: What scares you the most in the lab?
A: The shrimps are extremely jumpy so when you transfer them to different tanks, it’s quite nerve-racking because they can jump out of the net and they thrash a lot.

SFU Undergrad Researcher: Joseph Lucero

Next up in our series of brilliant SFU undergrad scientists, we have Joseph Lucero of the Department of Physics!

Name: Joseph Lucero
Major: Biophysics
Year: Fourth
Supervisors: David A. Sivak, Leonid Chindelevitch

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Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: In an ideal world I would like to become a doctor of some sort! PhD or MD, whichever one comes first, I’m not really that picky haha.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far? What is your research about?
A: The Physics Department here at SFU has a program called “Adopt-A-Physicist” that helps first-year students get exposed to research. I was paired with the Sivak Theoretical/computational biophysics group and began getting involved in research, albeit in a passive sort of way: in my first year I sat in on the group’s weekly meeting and learned how theory-based research was conducted, while simultaneously reading related scientific literature outside of these meetings. After a year, this passive role transitioned into a more active one where I began my own research project.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: A day in the lab for me usually involves one of three things: debugging code and running numerical simulations, analyzing the outputs of these simulations, literature review, and speaking with other members of the group or my supervisor about things that I am stuck on.

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: This summer will be a sort of departure for me, as my summer research project will be in Computer Science with the Chindelevitch group as opposed to my usual home in Biological Physics with the Sivak group. My summer research project involves developing a novel method/algorithm that is able to construct tuberculosis (TB) phylogenies and be applied to a large collection of existing TB data.

Q: What’s your favorite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: I would say that my favourite course out of the ones that I have taken so far, would probably be Physics 384: Mathematical Methods of Theoretical Physics. It was a very interesting course that introduced me to the mathematical techniques used by physicists every day and it served to unlock the sections of the research literature which, before I took this course, were impenetrable simply because I lacked knowledge of what all the symbols meant and the methods that they used.