NSERC and SSHRC student competitions

Five Brock University students had earned spots in the Top 25 of The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)’s 2019 Science, Action competition, an annual initiative showcasing student research. From these, a panel of judges selected 15 final winners. Brock University captured second and third place. (The competition is not being offered in 2020).

These are the five Brock University videos:

Big Problem, Nano Solutions, by Mateo Andrade, an undergrad Biotechnology student, works under the wing of experts in Assistant Professor Feng Li’s bioanalytical chemistry research group. His project involves the use of DNA nanotechnology to develop next generation point of care devices. These novel devices are developed in order to detect a multitude of biomarker targets that are linked to known diseases. This is accomplished by using DNA walkers. He hopes that his research contributions will help to address meaningful biological and biomedical questions.

Brewing Medicine, by Danielle Williams, a PhD candidate in Biotechnology, studies how plants can be used to create anti-cancer drugs. Plants produce a wide range of chemicals with important medicinal properties, many of which belong to a class of compounds called alkaloids. Madagascar periwinkle produces more than 100 alkaloids, two of which are chemotherapeutics used to treat many cancers, including Hodgkin lymphoma. Due to the low accumulation of these alkaloids in plants, production of these medicines is costly. The aim of Williams’ research is to engineer yeast strains capable of producing alkaloids in a bioreactor system, which will make it possible to generate higher yields of these valuable chemicals at a lower cost.

Microplastics — A Macroproblem, by Emily Ham, a master’s student in Earth Sciences, studies how microplastics have become a cause for concern in recent years due to their widespread distribution and potential threat to aquatic life. Her research investigates the presence and pathways of microplastics in the Niagara region, which involves investigating treated wastewater, local stream water and agricultural soil samples from fields applied with wastewater biosolids. Results indicate that microplastics are widespread in the Niagara region, likely contributing to plastic concentrations in Lake Ontario. This research will help inform individuals and our municipality on the impact that our water treatment and agricultural practices have on the distribution and accumulation of microplastics in our freshwater bodies.

Regeneration, Snailed It, by Sarah Walker, a PhD candidate in Biology working under the supervision of Professors Robert Carlone and Gaynor Spencer, studies neuronal regeneration in the central nervous system of the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. Unlike humans, the snail can regenerate cells within its brain as an adult, making it a great system to investigate how regeneration works. Walker studies microRNAs, which are small non-coding RNAs, and their distribution within regenerating cells. Using fluorescent tags, she is able to visualize their localization during different stages of regeneration and determine how up-regulating/inhibiting their expression alters neuronal growth.

Tea-rrific Bone, by Michael McAlpine, a PhD candidate in Health Sciences, is researching how nutrition and diet can influence the human body. More specifically, McAlpine is determining the effectiveness of consuming polyphenols from tea to improve bone quantity and quality as well as revealing the mechanisms through which this might occur.

One Brock University student had earned a spot in the Top 25 of The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)’s 2019 The Storytellers competition, an annual initiative showcasing student research. (For details of the 2020 competition, click here).

“We want more PE; don’t you see?”, by Stephanie Beni, is a video of a pop-up storybook depicting her research on providing meaningful experiences during physical education for elementary school students.