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Opportunities abound for young researchers


In partnership with the University of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital, the OHRI provides training for more than 350 students and postdoctoral fellows each year. These young researchers are at the cutting edge of medical science, playing a crucial role in advancing our understanding of disease and developing new therapeutic approaches. Read on to learn about some projects and activities they have recently been involved with.

High school co-op student places second in national research competition

Nobody knows better than 17-year-old James MacLeod how far you can go with a summer science project. Working under the mentorship of OHRI postdoctoral fellow Dr. Angela Crawley and scientist Dr. Jonathan Angel, James has won the Eastern Ontario Sanofi Aventis Biotech Challenge two years in a row. Last year he also won the National competition and this year he placed second.

James became interested in the HIV virus in his grade 10 health class at Venta Preparatory School in Carp. He was able to pursue his interest starting in grade 11 at All Saints High School in Kanata. His research project at the OHRI involves studying how HIV affects molecular communication between cells of the immune system. In particular, his experiments have shed light on how HIV may be disrupting interleukin-7 signalling in CD8 T cells.

“This competition has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how a research laboratory functions, and gives me a taste of what it is like to have a career in research,” he said.

Other local high school students who participated include Jason Au, Jessica Li and Lingling Liu.

Science Travels

OHRI graduate students welcomed and mentored 16 high school students from remote Northern Ontario communities recently. Their visit was part of Science Travels Week, a collaborative effort involving several uOttawa faculties and outreach organizations such as Let’s Talk Science.

Chantal Lemay and Caroline Breitbach acted as mentors during the visit and led a DNA laboratory activity. “This was a really unique opportunity for these students to learn about research and it was a lot of fun for all the volunteers,” said Chantal.

Other OHRI graduate students involved include Alexis Given, Marilyne Delorme, David Pépin, and Brian Melanson.

Summer student program kicks off

The OHRI summer student program is now in full gear, with students meeting weekly at both the Civic and General Campuses. The program provides students with an opportunity to practice their presentation skills among a group a peers, with mentorship and guidance provided by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Ziad Chaar at the General Campus and PhD student Keyvan Sedaghat at the Civic Campus.

The summer students have to submit a written report at the end of the summer and they are formally evaluated by their supervisor. Based on these results, two students are selected each year to receive the Dr. Goodman Cohen Summer Student Award, worth $500.

Last year, Melissa Huyhn won one of the awards based on her work in Dr. May Griffith’s lab, and this summer she is back.

“Being in just one research lab, you may only know what’s going on around you, but the summer student program gives you wide exposure to all sorts of topics, which is really helpful if you’re thinking of going on to do grad studies,” said Melissa, who just finished her second year in the Biopharmaceutical Science program at the University of Ottawa.