Student Name: Stephanie Kim
Supervisor: Dr. Denise Belsham, Professor and Academic Vice Chair, Department of Physiology; Affiliate Scientist at Toronto General Research Institute; Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy, Associate Professor in Department of Nutritional Sciences, and Canada Research Chair in Nutrigenomics
Stephanie completed an Honours Bachelor of Science degree, double majoring in Physiology and Nutritional Sciences.
Her growing interest in research during her undergrad led her to take a third year project course in Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy’s lab, to study the interaction of ALDH4A1 and diet in the plasma proteins of individuals. Her work was later presented at Experimental Biology 2016, held in San Diego. To engage in a more diverse area and methods of scientific research, she started to work in Dr. Denise Belsham’s Lab, upon receiving the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) award in the summer prior to her fourth year. Her work focused on microglia and the effect of saturated fatty acid palmitate on its inflammatory profile. She continued her research as part of the fourth year project course PSL498, and also in the summer after her convocation upon receiving the Division of Teaching Labs Research Award. She presented her work at multiple research conferences including Ontario Biology Day, Frontiers in Physiology, and the Neurometabolic Club Meeting, in which she competed with graduate level students. Her contribution to the lab currently includes a review paper discussing the mechanism of diet-induced inflammation in the hypothalamus.
Besides academics, Stephanie was engaged in various extracurriculars throughout her undergraduate career, including volunteering in the community, mentoring lower year students, and being involved in students clubs and associations, particularly the Undergraduate Physiology Students’ Association (UPSA). As a Director of External Affairs and a Co-President in her third and fourth year, respectively, she not only partake in improving the learning experience of fellow physiology students, but also in allowing her peers’ achievements to be recognized by coordinating the UPSA Community involvement awards, UPSA apparel design contest, and UPSA Charity Dodgeball.
Her passions in global health and medical ethics also led her to organize events such as Take Action Conference under the University of Toronto International Health Program, and “H.O.P.E. was Here” documentary screening and panel discussion that delves into the ethical concerns about voluntourism. Stephanie hopes to continue her endeavors in biological sciences and global health throughout her medical education at the Schulich School of Medicine at Western University.
Student Name: Yinyin Zhou
Supervisors: Dr. Martin Wojtowicz, Dr. Michael Dorris, Dr. Douglas Tweed, Dr. Sabine Weyand
Yinyin has completed her Hon. B.Sc, specializing in Physiology. Her research experience started in her first year, when she volunteered in several research groups within the university and Mount Sinai Hospital. She then worked in Dr. Martin Wojtowicz’s lab as a PSL299Y-ROP research project trainee, studying the effect of stress on adult neurogenesis in the sub-granular zone. She spent the following two summers interning and volunteering in Dr. Michael Dorris’s lab at the Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences. She studied micro-saccades during the process of decision-making, contributing to the lab’s efforts to understand how the brain makes decisions.
She carried out her final-year PSL498Y project under the supervision of Dr. Douglas Tweed, studying a property of the visual system known as invariance. Because of the laws of optics, identical objects may cast very different images on the retina depending, for instance, on viewing distance. But human vision shows invariance, recognizing that the object is the same despite the varying images. Artificial networks have been shown to develop specific invariance, meaning they recognize object classes they have seen before at different sizes. But the human visual system shows generalized invariance: we can recognize a thing at different sizes after seeing it just once, at just one size. In this project, Yinyin showed that standard visual networks cannot achieve generalized invariance, but that neural networks can do so if they are augmented with spatial transformer subnetworks that undo the optical effects of viewing distance. This result suggests that biological vision involves similar inverse-optics mechanisms, and that such operations can make artificial visual systems more versatile.
Yinyin also participated in the biomedical engineering capstone design course [BME498Y] under the supervision of Dr. Sabine Weyand. She worked together with Windy Wang and Gabriel Keller on devising a wearable technology to reduce falls in the elderly. The team focused on the problem of tripping over obstacles, which is responsible for 50% of falls but is seldom stressed in other solutions. Their design, Omnistep, accurately detects obstacles in the pathway and alerts the user. It is able to mute its alerts when it detects tall obstacles such as doors and walls, and when the user is slowing down or motionless. The team plan to implement learning algorithms to achieve better obstacle recognition and discrimination. Their design has reached the top 15 in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society - International Student Conference (IEEE EMBS ISC) design competition.
Yinyin has long been interested in how the brain works and how it makes us human. The Department of Physiology has allowed her to follow her curiosity and take part in diverse areas of research — from cellular to computational, and from fundamental to applied. Trying to understand the concepts and general principles, she will continue working with Dr. Tweed to study vision using a computational and system-level approach. This kind of research requires a strong mathematical background, and for that she is combining her passion for physiology with graduate studies with the Department of Mathematics.