Meet our Amgen Scholars
Home Institute: Carleton University
Home Institute: University of Ottawa
Supervisor: Dr. Chung-Wai Chow
Hi! My name is Amanda, and I am a fourth-year student in the Health Sciences program at the University of Ottawa. I grew up in Markham, ON and have two little sisters. Having family members who live with chronic illness and disability, I've always been very passionate about transitional care and empowering individuals to play an active role in managing their health beyond the walls of the clinic/hospital. This led me to later volunteer a lot in long-term care and to participate in basic science research in ophthalmology, as well as qualitative health research focused on enhancing community resilience among marginalized populations. In my free time, I love painting, running, watching K-dramas, and attempting to cook and bake!
This summer, I am working with Dr. Chung-Wai Chow to apply machine learning to the interpretation of oscillometry, a novel pulmonary function test. Oscillometry assesses respiratory mechanics using multi-frequency sound waves which measure respiratory impedance and provides more comprehensive information on lung physiology compared to conventional pulmonary function tests. I am excited to collaborate with her research team on developing a machine learning algorithm that can classify oscillometry data into different categories of physiological defects – this will aid in improving lung disease diagnosis and increasing the use of this new testing modality in the clinic.
I have always been very grateful for the wonderful mentors and women in STEM whom I've met through participating in research. I was drawn to the emphasis that the Amgen Program places on promoting diversity and inclusion in research, and I hope that through this experience, I can continue to grow as a student researcher, connect with others and learn more about tackling the unique barriers that women and marginalized communities face in STEM and healthcare.
Home Institute: University of Toronto
Supervisor: Dr. Kieran Campbell
Hello, my name is Ben, and I am a biochemistry/chemistry student at the University of Toronto currently in my fourth year of study (graduating this coming May 2021). I am very interested in medicinal chemistry and design, optimization and synthesis of new drugs. Since childhood, I have been interested in combatting infections pathogens and hope to be able to contribute to this field in the future through creating therapeutically active compounds. Outside of school and research, I enjoy going to the gym, running and watching anime. I am currently on the University College Dragonboat team and, although many competitions have been cancelled over the past year, I hope to be able to compete with my team soon.
Home Institute: University of Waterloo
Supervisor: Dr. Lena Serghides
Hello! My name is Christian (he/him or they/them), and I’m from Brampton, Ontario. Upon entering the program, I’ll be newly graduated from the University of Waterloo, having studied Biomedical Sciences and Psychology. My interests outside of school focus primarily on advocacy, diversity and inclusion. I desire to intertwine intersectionality with issues surrounding social structures, ranging from healthcare to education. The union of advocacy work and research is vital to promoting the conversations needed for genuine scientific advancement, which I hope to bring to the Amgen Scholars Program. I want to push the boundaries on how we, as scientists, approach biomedical research.
Project Title: HIV antiretrovirals and effects on the placenta vasculature.
This project aims to explore the differences in placenta vascular patterns between placentas from women without HIV and women with HIV receiving different antiretroviral regimens. The association between fetal vascular patterns and birth outcomes will also be explored. I will be responsible for tracing fetal vasculature from the placenta images and working with the team on modelling and analyses.
I hope to establish and solidify my foundation as a scientific researcher. Most of my research experiences either focus on psychology or the social/regulatory aspects of STEM, so I am eager to contribute to projects emphasizing biomedicine and health. The program provides the opportunity for students to participate in one of many multifaceted projects. I wanted to immerse myself within the realm of clinical research while applying the concepts I’ve learned in class and my lived experiences to the project. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work under the supervision of such outstanding scientists.
Home Institute: University of Toronto
Project Title: Bacteriophage as markers and triggers of colitis.
Specific members of the gut microbiota have been associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but the underlying mechanisms by which these taxa alter pathogenesis remain unclear. Interestingly, bacteriophages that target pro-inflammatory commensals have been shown to increase in abundance during colitis, especially phages that have been reactivated from a lysogenic state. The phage-mediated liberation of microbial cell wall components and nucleic acids in the gut may stimulate pattern recognition receptors on innate immune cells, exacerbating IBD symptoms. The Navarre lab aims to investigate whether inflammatory mediators such as reactive oxygen or nitrogen species trigger the release of phages from endogenous microbiota, as well as deeply characterize these potentially novel viruses.
I believe the Amgen program will introduce me to other students and professors with diverse backgrounds and scientific interests. I would love to hear their perspectives on how to formulate research questions and experimental designs, as well as learn more about their individual experiences navigating the academic sphere.
Dejan (Danny) Bojic
Hi! My name is Danny. I am a fourth-year Translational and Molecular Medicine student at the University of Ottawa. I have a great passion for community involvement and healthcare. As such, I spend much of my time volunteering at the Credit Valley Hospital, mentoring students at the University of Ottawa, promoting initiatives for the Canadian Cancer Society, and maintaining good physical activity. My interest in research was sparked in the second year of my undergraduate studies when I was given the “prestigious” title of mouse personal trainer, spending hours supervising mice running on a treadmill. Although not actually glamorous, I am grateful for this start in research. It brought me to my current project assessing the effect of cancer survivor host factors on the bone marrow, enabled me to present my work at several conferences, and led to scholarships such as UROP, NSERC, and, of course, the Amgen Scholars Program (ASP).
My passion for science and medicine goes beyond the lab bench. Last year I founded a federal non-profit organization, the IgNITE Medical Case Competition (www.ignitecompetition.org). I created IgNITE to offer students opportunities to be involved in research by equipping them with transferrable skills and knowledge. This year we were able to reach more than 6000 students across North America. It is a privilege to give back to the scientific community that has given me so much.
I am honoured to have worked alongside several industry-leading professors in fields ranging from regenerative medicine to cancer biology. This summer, I look forward to continuing to build these relationships and expanding my knowledge under the supervision of Dr. Mingyao Liu. Here we aim to improve ex vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) efficiency by introducing a novel perfusate solution. Using RNA-sequencing, I will assess differences in lung epithelial and endothelial cells following this novel solution's introduction. Our goal is to provide clinicians with a better understanding of the cellular changes following EVLP and improve lung health and stability during EVLP procedures such as lung transplants.
Through the ASP, I anticipate cultivating meaningful relationships with our diverse group of Amgen scholars and professors. I look forward to collaborating and sharing stories about our respective experiences. Additionally, I am confident that the ASP will teach me valuable new science communication skills and ultimately prepare me for a career as a physician-scientist.
Home Institute: University of British Columbia
Hello! I am an Honours Microbiology & Immunology student at UBC. I originally enrolled in university with the goal of becoming a botanist, but I became fascinated by how microbes interact with humans and the world around us. Therefore, for the past four years I have traversed the field of microbiome research in both Canadian and American institutions in host models ranging from plant roots, the skin and the gut. For the Amgen Scholars program, I decided that I would diversify my experiences and move beyond the microbiome in order to understand how exactly microbes interact with us on a molecular level.
Befittingly, my supervisor is Dr. Trevor Moraes, who specializes in understanding the transport proteins on the membranes of pathogenic bacteria. At the interface between bacteria-environment or bacteria-host is a membrane. The membrane is the site of critical functions, reactions and interactions in all living cells. Transport proteins shuttle important substrates out of the cell or facilitate their placement on the membrane. Working with bioinformatician Dr. David Curran, my project this summer is developing and utilizing bioinformatic tools, to investigate what sort of substrates are transported by SLAM, a family of transporters recently discovered by the Moraes Lab that transport pathogenic factors in bacterial pathogens. By understanding the substrates of SLAM and how it contributes to a pathogen's lifestyle, we can identify targets for therapeutics and vaccines.
I am privileged to have been involved in academic research for every year of my undergraduate degree. The Amgen Scholars program would provide the opportunity for me to reach like-minded students who have a passion for research and give me the chance to experience bioinformatics research at The University of Toronto. This is incredibly important for me as I have recently completed my interviews for the MD/PhD program at UofT. This program would help me decide if computational research in Toronto is the career choice that I will decide to take in the future.
Home Institute: University of Toronto
I am a fourth-year student enrolled in a double major in Population Health, and Molecular Biology, Immunology, and Disease. I love the intersectionality of both programs and how easily applicable to the real world they are. When I am not indulging on vanilla flavoured ice-cream, you will find me either reading on my Kindle, or having a spontaneous dance party in my room. I love to watch horror movies with my eyes closed and spend my nights writing slam poetry. I believe my passion for science and learning made me a suitable Amgen scholar. My educational, research, and work experience have paved the way in fine tuning my interest and ambition in research. Additionally, my leadership, team playing, communication, and organizational skills, and my enthusiasm for stepping out of my comfort zone set me apart as an Amgen scholar.
Project title: The Role of Steroid Hormones in Modulating mRNA Diversity
This summer, I have the privilege of working with Dr. Carolyn Cummins and Post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Florian Le Billan, in surveying the scientific literature, and compiling information on the various outcomes of steroid hormone action in their relation alternative splicing. I am delighted to begin my role in writing a literature review that will summarize what is currently known about this mechanism. I believe literature reviews are vital in their usefulness in expanding on the existing knowledge base, and I am very honoured to be a part of this project.
The opportunity, and privilege to learn from, and be mentored by experienced researchers drew me to apply for the program. Additionally, I am delighted for the opportunity to interact with, and get to know students like myself who are passionate about science. I am hoping to build on the knowledge of science I already have, network with researchers, and peers, and gain insight into what it means to be a researcher in the scientific community through my experience. I also hope to find an area that greatly intrigues me and will fuel my future pursuit as a researcher, and hopefully, a physician scientist.
Home Institute: University of Toronto
Hello! My name is Julianah, and I am a first-year medical student at the University of Toronto. I completed 3 years of a Biomedical Sciences degree at the University of Guelph and will be graduating with a General Bachelor of Science degree in June 2021. I was born in Nigeria and immigrated to Canada with my family at the age of 8. For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in science, especially biology and loved learning about the human body. I discovered the field of research in high school and since then, I have been privileged to work on a variety of research projects. These range from studying the impact of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy on maternal and child clinical outcomes to working on the development of a portable ultrasound machine at Sunnybrook to studying the impact of bean consumption on dyslipidemia. I have greatly enjoyed all my research experiences and I am fascinated by the wide variety of research currently underway and their potential to change how we approach patient care in the future. In my spare-time, I love tutoring, singing, and catching up on my favourite show, The Blacklist.
Project Title: Relation of healthy pant-based dietary patterns with cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in the United States; a prospective analysis of the national health and nutrition examination survey (NHANES)
I will be spending the summer in the Sievenpiper lab with a team studying the impact of five plant-based diets on cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. I will be involved in calculating the diet scores of respondents to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and comparing the risk of CV and all-cause mortality in individuals with high scores versus those with low scores. This will help provide more evidence on the role of healthy plant-based diets in preventing premature death. I am looking forward to this project as I am beginning to appreciate the impact of lifestyle on health and wellness.
I am looking forward to the Amgen Program to gain exposure to other fields of research, develop my research skill and to further explore what it means to combine a career in medicine with one in research. I am excited to immense myself in a project that I am enthusiastic about and connect with individuals that can act as mentors during my path to hopefully becoming a physician-scientist. I am also looking forward to meeting with liked-minded students who are passionate about research and potentially medicine. The Amgen program promises this and more and I am looking forward to an amazing summer!
Home Institute: Carleton University
Hello! My name is Laura and I am a 3rd year student studying Neuroscience and Mental Health at Carleton University. My passion for this area of study was born out of my experiences with patients suffering from neurological disorders. I was struck by both the debilitating effects these diseases can have, as well as the incredible resilience the nervous system can show even in the face of seemingly irreparable damage. It is my dream to work towards a cure for neurodegenerative illnesses. This goal was crystallized by working in the lab of Dr. Shawn Hayley, where I assisted in work on Parkinson's Disease, including studying the effects of an experimental drug treatment for Parkinsonism in mice. I think my experience with both the personal and clinical research sides of illness affords me the opportunity to be an empathetic and effective scientist. In my spare time, you can find me playing my ukulele, drinking excessive amounts of Tim Horton's, or staying up too late reading mystery novels.
Project title: Uncovering how molecule chaperons dissemble stress granules
I will be working in the lab of Dr. Kate Hyun Lee, where I will have the incredible opportunity to work on cutting-edge research into the pathogenesis of ALS. This neurogenerative disease currently has no cure, but this may change as Dr. Lee and her associates are investigating the role of a cellular component called stress granules in the development of ALS. I will be working on a variety of tasks, including image analysis of immunoblots and miscopy movies, statistical analysis, and literature review. My goal is to investigate the role of proteins in the assembly and disassembly of stress granules, giving me the opportunity to contribute to work that potentially may pave the way for therapeutics for ALS.
I applied to the Amgen Scholars program because it offered the chance to take my learning beyond the classroom and get experience in being not just a student, but a future scientist. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from the distinguished scientists of University of Toronto, and I look forward to getting to see what it's really like to work in this field (spoiler: I'm pretty sure it's amazing!). The program offers so many experiences, including research, mentorship, and participation in events like symposia. I was looking for an in-depth experience in medical research and I'm incredibly excited to embark on this journey!
Home Institute: Bishop's University
Supervisor: Dr. Ana Andreazza
Hello! My name is Nicola, and I will graduate from Bishop's University with a BSc in Biology- Health Sciences this spring. While at school, I have had the opportunity to take courses in music (I play the French Horn), develop my French-language abilities, and work with a student ministry on campus that supplies food to students. In my spare time, I watch glass-blowing or baking shows with my many roommates, go for lots of walks to explore the area around my school, and play piano.
I have the pleasure to work with the MITO2i lab under the supervision of Dr. Ana Andreazza and Sonya Brijbassi. I will be part of building a registry of mitochondrial diseases to help future patients, researchers, and physicians. Presently, my role will be in contacting various teams of researchers and patients to gather the data and then help consolidate and format all the information to fit the registry. By building this tool, we will increase the accessibility of information concerning mitochondrial diseases, which will in turn help advance research and inform patients about their health.
I had spent a number of months looking at various internship opportunities last year. When the Amgen program was advertised at my school, I knew that I would love to participate in this program made especially for students to develop their scientific-research abilities while also being given opportunities to explore the life of a researcher! I love that professional development and social activities are incorporated into our schedules as Amgen Scholars and I believe that this approach to education will have a huge impact on my development as a professional.
Home Institute: Western University
Supervisor: Dr. Mohammad Akbari
Hi! My name is Shadia Adekunte, and I am finishing up my 4th year at Western University studying Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I'm passionate about health disparities particularly as they relate to marginalized populations, so a lot of my extracurricular work has been based on equity, diversity and inclusion. Studying Epidemiology has afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot about different research methods and other important research skills like critical appraisal and statistical analysis. I plan to apply these skills to a career in research and public health. Outside of school, I am also passionate about band! I played the flute throughout high school and I was also a part of Western's pep band. In my spare time, you can often find me reading, strength training, or watching a Marvel movie!
Project Title: Breast cancer in young women: A comprehensive review
I have the absolute pleasure of working with Dr. Mohammad Akbari on a comprehensive review of breast cancer in young (pre-menopausal) women this summer! This project is interesting and exciting for me because I have volunteered in my local hospital's Breast Care Clinic where most of the patient demographic was older women. Screening is not regularly recommended for younger women, which is why I was surprised when I saw women my age getting a mammogram. The behaviour of breast cancer in younger women is different compared to older women, however there is not much representation of younger women in breast cancer research. Therefore, we plan to take a systematic look at breast cancer in young women and identify the gaps in the literature. I have also written a systematic review on ethnic disparities in health-related quality of life after breast cancer diagnosis in the past, so I look forward to doing research that looks at breast cancer from a different angle.
I was drawn to apply to the Amgen Program because of all the aspects that it included- an opportunity to build my research skills and to also be in a group of people who love research as much as I do! Having social activities incorporated into the program really sets the Amgen Scholars Program apart from other summer research opportunities. I'm very excited for this summer, and I hope to build on my current skills and get to know the other scholars from all around Canada! I am also particularly excited to learn from Dr. Akbari and be able to conduct meaningful research that can help strengthen the literature base.
Home Institute: McGill University
Hello! My name is Tommy Kim and I am a 4th year psychology student at McGill. I am personally very interested in the relationship between neurobiology and behaviour, which has led me to work in an animal neuroscience lab studying dopamine neuron circuitry in mice, and a sensorimotor neuroscience lab that examines changes in motor movements in response to changes in the perception of the environment. Outside of the lab, I am passionate about volunteering with populations with neurodegenerative disorders and developmental disabilities, as well as playing chess and basketball.
Project title: Patterns of cortical thinning associated with cortical topology after mild TBI in youth
I will be working with Dr. Anne Wheeler of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto to examine changes in cortical grey matter following mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) in child patients. My role in the lab will be to perform statistical analyses and generate maps using cortical thickness and sulcal depth data obtained with MRIs of TBI patients' brains. Specifically, we will be testing the prediction that the biomechanics of mild TBI result in differential vulnerability of cortical grey matter determined by cortical topology.
The reason I applied to Amgen Scholars was in the hopes that this experience would help broaden my research horizons into more clinically-relevant fields involving neuroscience and health, especially alongside a diverse group of like-minded people who are just as passionate about research as I am. I hope to form new friendships as well as connections with mentors who will be of tremendous help in my future academic and research career.
Home Institute: University of Saskatchewan
Hi Everyone! My name is Topaza Yu, and my pronouns are she/her. I am from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which is the treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the metis. I am a third-year kinesiology student at the University of Saskatchewan, and much of my work outside of academics revolves around youth empowerment, sexual rights, and reproductive health. Having experienced many social determinants of health and barriers as a woman in STEM, I am most interested in advocating for equity, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of my research work.
Dr. Reina Bendayan is a Professor at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and a career scientist at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network. Dr. Reina Bendayan’s research program focuses on the mechanisms that regulate drug transport at blood-tissue barriers, including the blood-brain barrier, blood-testicular, blood-intestinal and blood-placenta barriers. Bendayan also leads clinical studies that investigate drug disposition, drug-drug interactions and drug use. In particular, the Bendayan group focuses on the transport of antiretroviral drugs to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. I am beyond excited to have been matched to Dr. Reina Bendayan's lab, where we will be studying and analyzing HIV and COVID-19 co-infection pharmacological treatments.
Growing up in Saskatchewan where the representation of women of colour in STEM is limited, I was inspired by the multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary health network that the Amgen Scholars Canada Program offers. I wanted to be a part of a learning experience where hands-on learning is highly encouraged and be in an environment where I can further develop my skills as an undergraduate student researcher.
Home Institute: University of Alberta
I was born in Bogota, Colombia and moved to Edmonton when I was eight years old. Having learned French in junior high, I decided to do my Bachelor of Science in French, and I am currently a third-year Biology student at the University of Alberta’s Campus Saint-Jean. For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by the human body and how it works. Throughout my undergrad, I have realized that I am particularly interested in learning about genetics, biochemistry and the workings of the nervous system. During the past two summers, I have participated in clinical research at the Cross Cancer Institute looking at treatment options for breast cancer. I am looking forward to exploring new research areas through the Amgen Scholars Program. Outside of academics, I enjoy playing water polo and I love going camping and hiking in the summer.
Project Title: Computational research in epigenomics and machine learning
I will be working with Dr. Michael Hoffman and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Samantha Wilson on an extension of their work developing new spike-in controls for cell-free methylated DNA immunoprecipitation-sequencing (cfMeDIP-seq), which is a method used for epigenetic liquid biopsy. This method can be used to detect different cancer types by looking at the methylation patterns of circulating tumour DNA.
What most drew me to apply to the Amgen Program was that I believe this will be a great opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone, helping me grow not only from an academic perspective, but also from a personal one. I am excited to explore the world of biomedical research and to learn more about different career opportunities in the scientific field. I think that the skills and experience that I will gain from this program will help me make a more informed and confident choice about what path I want to pursue in my academic career once I finish my undergrad. I am also really looking forward to working with and getting to know the other scholars!
Home Institute: Western University
Supervisor: Dr. Brian Cox
Hi! My name is Zoë and I’m a 3rd-year medical biophysics student at the University of Western Ontario. As a number’s person with an interest in medicine, I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of physics and biology. For the past few years, I’ve been involved in a project with Western’s Oncology Physics Lab to construct a ‘lung-on-a-chip’ to study the factors that affect cancer metastasis. I’m originally from Ottawa, where I grew up with my two sisters and my older brother, Gabriel, who has an autism spectrum disorder. I was inspired by him to get involved in volunteer work with people with developmental disabilities, which is something I have been doing since high school. Outside of school and volunteer work, you can find me reading, knitting, or baking for my friends.
Project title: Computational evaluation of maternal biomarkers of preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction.
This summer, I will be working with Dr. Brian Cox on a project analyzing the relationship between biomarkers of maternal serum and pregnancy outcomes like preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction. I’m looking forward to improving my skills in data analysis and modelling over the course of the project, in addition to improving my understanding of the factors that impact maternal health.
I was drawn to the Amgen program as an opportunity to branch out into an area of research that is new to me. I’m looking forward to exploring a different segment of the world of biomedical research and developing new skills along the way. I hope that this experience will help me make a more informed decision about my future in research.