• Brock-led study examines role of protein levels in preterm birth

    A Brock-led international research team is developing an approach to predict if women in the early stages of pregnancy are at risk of experiencing a premature birth.

    The team, headed by Professor of Health Sciences and Biological Sciences Jens Coorssen, discovered that the levels of certain proteins found in the mother’s blood during the first trimester can potentially act as early predictors or biomarkers of premature birth.

    “There aren’t any good markers of preterm birth, even in the second and third trimester,” says Coorssen. “The idea was, can we identify markers in the blood samples of women taken during their first routine checkup between 11 and 13 weeks?”

    Preterm birth, which occurs before 37 weeks, is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization.

    The research team, consisting of Coorssen, PhD student Arlene D’Silva and University of Sydney researcher Jon Hyett, analyzed blood samples from 20 women who were each around 12 weeks pregnant.

    The researchers examined the total set of proteins contained in a part of the blood called serum.

    “We were looking to see if there are different levels of specific proteins in the blood of women who go on to have a normal term delivery versus women who go on to have a pre-term delivery,” he says. “That way we can identify women at risk early and cut down on emergency interventions, and the complications often associated with premature birth.”

    Those women subsequently experiencing a preterm birth had significantly higher or lower levels of 30 different protein species, 20 of which included specific modifications that can alter their functions or locations.

    They also have lower levels of complement C3, a protein that, when activated, kills invading microbes without damaging surrounding tissues. The protein becomes active when encountering a bacteria, virus or other harmful substance.

    These and other findings are in the team’s paper, “Proteomic analysis of first trimester maternal serum to identify candidate biomarkers potentially predictive of spontaneous preterm birth,” published Feb. 13 in the Journal of Proteomics.

    Coorssen says researchers don’t know what causes these protein levels to change, or which of these proteins might be linked more directly to cellular processes that may cause preterm labour.

    “Understanding the cellular and molecular processes involved in preterm labour, which is also part of the ongoing project, is the only route to developing new, targeted medicines,” he says.

    “What we’re immediately interested in right now, though, is if there is a way to identify these women at risk early so that they can be better monitored and managed so as to avoid a preterm event.”

    Coorssen says future research would focus on expanding the number of research participants and focusing more on mechanisms as well.

    The World Health Organization says 15 million babies — one in 10 — are born too early every year, with one million children dying each year due to complications of preterm birth. Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including breathing issues, learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems. The agency lists a number of measures during pregnancy to avoid preterm births, such as antenatal steroid injections, nutritional counselling, avoiding tobacco and drug use, and “a minimum of eight contacts with health professionals” to identify risk factors.

    Tags: ,
    Categories: News

  • Record crowd expected for MNK Conference

    The Faculty of Graduate Studies will host the 13th annual Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Research Conference on Thursday, April 12.

    The day-long event will be the largest in the conference’s history, with more 135 graduate students presenting either an oral or poster presentation. For the second year, the conference will also welcome ten undergraduate thesis students in their final year to present oral presentations.

    Kicking off the event will be a keynote address from Brock Professor of Sociology, June Corman. A past winner of the Faculty of Graduate Studies Graduate Mentorship Award, Corman will share stories of her personal mentorship experiences during her time as a graduate student, and how those experiences shape her teaching and supervisory philosophy today.

    “MNK gives graduate students the opportunity to present, some of them for the first time, in a friendly, encouraging environment,” says Diane Dupont, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies. “We want students to get comfortable talking about their research, no matter what stage of their project they may be in. While MNK is largely an opportunity for professional development, it is also a chance for students to see how their individual studies are part of a larger community of research at Brock.”

    The conference will celebrate the graduate studies community with the FGS awards ceremony from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The ceremony will include the presentation of the Marilyn Rose Graduate Leadership Award and Michael Plyley Graduate Mentorship Awards, and special recognition of graduate students who have been selected to receive the 2018 Jack M. Miller Excellence in Research Awards.

    All members of the Brock Community are invited to attend the conference or awards ceremony. For a detailed conference schedule, visit the MNK website.



    Tags: , , , ,
    Categories: News

  • Linguistics, neuroscience and cognitive psychology come together in Brock lab

    As Brock prepares to welcome prospective students curious about where their studies might take them, the Dwivedi Brain and Language Lab is proof that transdisciplinary research lets you follow your passion — even if you aren’t quite sure what that passion is.

    The lab, run by Psychology Associate Professor Veena Dwivedi is part of the Centre for Lifespan Development Research, one of Brock’s transdisciplinary hubs.

    Dwivedi and her research team combine linguistic theory with cutting edge neuroscience methods to examine how people process language and sentences in the brain. By approaching the subject from multiple disciplines, Dwivedi’s research may ultimately help improve the diagnosis of diseases and disorders, from Alzheimer’s to Attention Deficit Disorder.

    “If you want to do the hard work of understanding how the brain works, you have to bring together fundamental knowledge from more than one discipline,” she says.

    Dwivedi’s devotion to transdisciplinary research often inspires students working in her lab, which presently includes three fourth-year students from different Brock Faculties.

    Alanna Kozak, a Speech and Language Sciences student in the Department of Applied Linguistics, plans to attend medical school after graduation. Medical Science student Harmonie Chan plans to pursue a master’s degree in speech pathology.

    A third student, Neuroscience major Janahan Selvanayagam, speaks highly of the freedom he enjoyed in exploring novel analytical approaches in the lab. He found that his experience confirmed his passion for neuroscience research, which he will continue to pursue in graduate school next year.

    Previous lab students have gone on to diverse experiences around the world — from universities and health care systems to other research ventures as far away as Germany and Poland. One of these alumni, Raechelle Gibson, recently completed a PhD in Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience and is now working on her MD. She credits Brock with affording her opportunities to explore her many interests.

    “The mentorship and teaching I received from Brock fostered my learning and spurred my intellectual curiosity,” says Gibson. “I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunities for learning and research that I did so early on in my training. Brock is a special place and offers a fantastic learning environment.”

    For Dwivedi, this is what her work is all about.

    “I want students to realize that they will be supported at Brock. Even if they are different, they can find a place here. Even if they change their minds as they learn and grow, they will be supported. They can achieve their dreams.”

    Read the full story here

    Tags: ,
    Categories: News

  • Brock grad recognized as rising star in the Ontario hospitality industry

    Alumna Rachel Kvas (BSc ’14) has joined an elite group of hospitality industry professionals. The Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) grad was recently recognized as one of the Ontario Hostelry Institute’s (OHI) top 30 hospitality and foodservice professionals under the age of 30.

    Kvas, a research and development co-ordinator at Arterra Wines Canada, credits her time at Brock with her early success after graduation.

    “Without my degree I wouldn’t be where I am now,” she said. “Specifically the exposure to winemaking, sensory studies and the co-op program through OEVI is really a big part of how I’ve been able to get to where I am today.”

    Kvas was nominated by Barb Tatarnic, Manager of Outreach and Continuing Education at Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) and a fellow of the OHI.

    While at Brock, Kvas excelled academically and was always eager to volunteer for CCOVI’s educational events.

    At Arterra, Kvas is focused on new product development including running new ingredient trials and testing. Lately, she has focused on improving innovation through sensory science and is working on developing a sensory program including sensory analysis and training.

    Kvas’ advice for students and grads starting out in the industry is simple: always be curious and work hard. Put the effort in, work hard and be open to new experiences,” she said.

    Kvas will be returning to campus May 10 to share her experiences and passion for science as a mentor for Brock’s Scientifically Yours program.

    Read the full story here

    Tags: ,
    Categories: News

  • FMS grad to cook up storm on MasterChef Canada

    The Brock community may recognize a familiar face when tuning into the Season 5 premiere of MasterChef Canada next week.

    Alumnus Michael Griffiths (BSc ’16, BEd ’16) has used his culinary prowess to secure a spot as one of 21 finalists in the televised national cooking competition, which kicks off Tuesday, April 3 on CTV.

    While Griffiths’ focus was on Mathematics and Concurrent Education during his time at Brock, the 24-year-old Richmond Hill native has always had a passion for food. As a child, he was frequently found in the kitchen helping his mother prepare the family’s meals, and later on in his university years, he often impressed his roommates with his culinary skills.

    It was during his time on campus that Griffiths learned to balance the many interests — math and food among them — that contended for his time. “I was always very engaged. I played rugby, worked as a senior supervisor at the recreation services desk and worked with a number of mathematics and outreach programs,” he said. “Brock was the kickstarter for a lot of my different adventures.”

    With a wide variety of interests still on his plate, Griffiths decided to pursue his dream of being on MasterChef, all while simultaneously working to earn his Master of Mathematics at the University of Guelph.

    At first glance, there may seem to be little overlap between mathematics and culinary arts, but Griffiths said that is not the case. He believes his math background gives him an edge in the kitchen. “I know how to think critically. I know how to think logistically,” he said. “If I’m having a party for 50 people, I know how to work out what I need to do in order to put forward an amazing dish that everyone can enjoy.”



    He is thankful for the encouragement he has received from the Brock community, which has “hit home in such an incredible way.”

    “This is another example of the outstanding support the Brock community has always provided for me.”

    Griffiths hopes to inspire his fellow Badgers to continue to work hard and follow their passions, even if it takes them down an unconventional path. “Follow your heart and realize that what you’re working hard on may not be your end goal passion, but I guarantee there’s a connection to your future there,” he said.

    MasterChef Canada premieres Tuesday, April 3 at 9 p.m. on CTV.

    Read the full story here

    Tags: ,
    Categories: News

  • Earth Sciences prof and MSc student co-author journal identifying evidence of ancient earthquakes

    The history of New England’s most damaging earthquake is written in the mud beneath a Massachusetts pond. Researchers identified the first sedimentary evidence of the Cape Ann earthquake, which in 1755 shook the East Coast from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. The quake, estimated to have been at least magnitude 5.9, took no lives but damaged hundreds of buildings.

    Within a mud core retrieved from the bottom of Sluice Pond in Lynn, Mass., a light brown layer of sediment stands out amid darker layers of organic-rich sediment, the researchers report March 27 in Seismological Research Letters. The 2-centimeter-thick layer contains tiny fossils usually found near the shore, as well as types of pollen different from those found in the rest of the core. Using previous studies of the pond’s deposition rates, geologist Katrin Monecke of Wellesley College in Massachusetts and her colleagues determined the layer dates to between 1740 and 1810.

    Professor of Earth Sciences, Francine McCarthy and MSc student Justin Pentesco are co-authors on the journal article.

    Read the full release here

    Tags: , ,
    Categories: News

  • Brock mosquito expert Fiona Hunter to conduct Zika research in Dominican Republic

    To medical entomologist Fiona Hunter, the Dominican Republic had always been a place of rest, with its warm breezes, snow-white beaches and turquoise waters. Two years ago however, the Brock University Professor of Biological Sciences saw another side to the popular holiday destination.

    Faced with the prospect of a Zika outbreak in the country, Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) and the Research Institute of Microbiology and Parasitology (IMPA-FC) invited Hunter to train a research group on how to recognize mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

    “At the time, Zika was just coming through,” says Hunter. “The country had just been battling with chikungunya and dengue, both mosquito-borne diseases. The team was getting a program up and running to do mosquito surveillance.”

    The week Hunter and Brock alumnus Alessio Gasparotto (BSc ’05), who manages the professor’s Entomogen consulting firm, spent travelling with the University’s researchers was an eye-opener. Hunter witnessed first-hand how homes in the Dominican Republic lacked window screens, air conditioning, mosquito repellent and other “First-World” ways of protecting against mosquito bites.

    That visit, along with subsequent activities, have culminated in a US$250,000 grant from the Dominican Republic government for a mosquito surveillance research project.

    Hunter and her (UASD) co-investigator, Modesto Cruz, applied for a three-year National Fund for Innovation and Development of Science and Technology grant for their project titled “Zika Virus: Factors Influencing Vector Competence in the Dominican Republic.”

    Starting in April, the two will work with additional researchers and students from the Dominican to conduct field research which involves identifying and collecting mosquitoes from sites all across the country.

    Once treated with a substance called a lysis buffer that inactivates any viruses they may be carrying, the dead mosquitoes will then be shipped to Brock University’s laboratories, where they will be tested for mosquito-borne viruses that cause diseases such as West Nile, dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

    “This will give us a greater understanding of geographic patterns of transmission and the mosquito species that are present there,” says Hunter.

    In the two years since her visit, Hunter and her Canadian and Dominican colleagues have worked hard to pave the way for the successful grant.

    Shortly after her return, Hunter, along with then-Interim Vice-President, Research Joffre Mercier and Faculty of Math and Science Dean Ejaz Ahmed, funded the purchase of a dry ice maker that UASD researchers could use to attract mosquitoes to the mosquito traps as well as preserve and ship biological specimens in dry ice.

    Hunter also took some older dissecting microscopes from her teaching labs to the Dominican researchers.

    “Those tiny little investments have blossomed into this new grant,” she says.

    She met with many senior officials in the government and at the University and, with Cruz, crafted a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between Brock University and UASD. The Dominican Republic government urged the duo to apply for the Innovation and Development grant.

    Read the full article here

    Tags: , ,
    Categories: News

  • New format for Brock’s employee Wellness Day

    Wellness Day will look a little different this year.

    A favourite initiative among Brock employees, the 19th annual Wellness Day is set to take place June 14 and will feature two half-day sessions in the community.

    The full-day event allows Brock faculty and staff to register for a variety of workshops, from flower arrangement and beer tasting to financial health and Zumba. In past years, guest speakers and instructors have come to campus to share their talents and expertise, but this year, Brock is coming to them.

    Although the 2018 calendar of workshops has yet to be finalized, employees can expect to find themselves in more of an experiential learning environment.

    “If an employee signs up for a ball hockey class, they’ll play at the St. Catharines Ball Hockey Club,” says Kathryn Walker, Manager, Health Management and Wellness. “If they register for an art class, they’ll take it at a local art studio.”

    Walker says the new format will also benefit Brock’s community partners.

    “Employees will visit venues they may have never seen or heard of before. It’s an opportunity for local organizations to showcase their programs and facilities,” she says.

    New this year is a complimentary hot breakfast on campus that will kick off the event. Following breakfast, employees are invited to attend an opening plenary that will feature a guest speaker, bike raffle and the Health, Safety and Wellness Champion Award presentation. The popular penny sale, which raised more than $6,500 last year for student scholarships, will also be back.

    Once the opening plenary is complete, employees will take a courtesy shuttle to their first half-day session. A return trip will bring them back to campus for lunch break (employees must provide their own lunch). After lunch, another shuttle will take faculty and staff to their second chosen half-day session, returning them in time for the normal end of day. There will be no closing remarks this year.

    The new format was introduced to aid Human Resources staff, who dedicate time each year to managing Wellness Day, with the launch of Project Mosaic, which takes place only two weeks later.

    As a result, employees will be asked to register for Wellness Day online as they have in the past and will need to print out their own itinerary. In-person check in will not be available.

    Read the full story here

    Categories: News

  • Faculty student-athletes make Academic All-Canadians list

    Being a good student takes dedication and hard work, and being a good athlete is equally difficult. But to be successful in both athletics and academics, one must be a master of time management.

    Nearly 70 Brock University student-athletes were named to the 2016-17 Academic All-Canadians list for finishing the year with an average of 80 per cent or higher. On Monday, March 19, they were honoured at a Brock Sports award banquet at Pond Inlet.

    The 2016-17 Academic All-Canadian recipients from the Faculty of Math and Science include:

    Julian Filice, Men’s Swimming

    Marcelo Muniz Correa, Men’s Volleyball

    Samuel Jagas, Men’s Wrestling

    Alexandra Symonds, Women’s Basketball

    Renee Helmer, Women’s Volleyball

    Categories: News

  • STEAM trend gaining traction at Brock

    While science and art may seem worlds apart, one enthusiast of the two fields has found a new place to combine them — at Brock University.

    Brock Science Mentorship Program participant Lauren Kelly is passionate about science and discovery, but also has a love for art. Finding a university program that allows her to combine these interests has been a top priority for the 17-year-old Chippawa native as her high school graduation draws near. Her time in Brock’s mentorship program helped Kelly to find her future path — a double major in Physics and Visual Arts at the University.

    The unique combination is an example of a growing trend known as STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

    Brock’s long-running Science Mentorship Program is designed for students who are highly interested in science, demonstrate significant scientific curiosity and are capable of working independently. Along with on-campus orientations and workshops, participants are paired with mentors who conduct research in a subject area of interest to the student. The partnership offers the unique opportunity to pursue a real-life scientific investigation in a university environment.

    Knowledge of her artistic background led Kelly to be paired with Physics Professor Edward Sternin, who helped her to work on a project that incorporated creative elements. She designed a new web page for the Physics department to visually highlight professors’ research.


    The experience gave Kelly the opportunity to learn more about video editing and coding. The result is a more dynamic, realistic and approachable view on graduate student life that seamlessly combines both scientific and artistic elements.

    On a more personal level, the experience led to Kelly’s decision to come to Brock.

    “Before, university seemed very foreign, but now a lot of my old fears and uncertainties have vanished,” she said. “I am familiar and comfortable with the university setting. I have also been introduced to many great opportunities and have learned about the facilities and resources here at Brock.”


    Read the full story here

    Tags: ,
    Categories: News