Summer Student Excellence at SURP Research Day 2017

Summer Student Excellence at SURP Research Day 2017

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By: Tahani Baakdhah

The 41st annual Institute of Medical Science (IMS) Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) Research Day was held on August 15th, 2017. This prominent program, with growing international presence, brings together undergraduate and medical students to learn, explore, and exchange scientific knowledge.  In a supportive and stimulating environment, students were given the opportunity to interact with highly qualified investigators on diverse subjects, including molecular biology, cognitive science, clinical investigation, and bioethics. Following the success of this year’s Research Day, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Vasundara Venkateswaran for insights about the program, mentorship, and event highlights. Dr. Venkateswaran is an Associate Professor at the Department of Surgery (Urology) and, among her many other roles, she is the Director of the IMS SURP. When asked about SURP, Dr. Venkateswaran enthusiastically states that “directing the program for 7 years has been a great experience and I was extremely excited to see another batch of enthusiastic students participate in our summer research program this year.”

The program, which begins in June, had 91 students this year and each spent their summer working on research projects in laboratories across the various affiliated and teaching hospitals in Toronto. This also gave them the chance to participate in individual laboratory meetings, analyze data, present at journal clubs, and even attend clinical research rounds. To complement the students’ research, the IMS held weekly lectures, which included research presentations by IMS faculty, graduate studies information sessions, and workshops on practical skills. After three months of hard work, the students had the opportunity to present their research findings through podium or poster presentations at the SURP Research Day on August 15th. According to Dr. Venkateswaran, this year’s success was most evident through the students’ enthusiasm, excitement, and their confidence while showcasing their results as well as in answering the challenging questions posed by the judges.

Dr. Cindi M. Morshead, Professor and Chair of the Anatomy Division at the University of Toronto, was this year’s keynote speaker. As Dr. Morshead obtained her PhD at the University of Toronto, under the supervision and expertise of Dr. Van Der Kooy, it was especially inspiring to hear about the exiting work and success of alumni. The talk was titled, “Activating resident neural stem cells to promote repair: A stroke of genius”.

The afternoon session involved engaging poster presentations, awards, and concluding remarks by Dr. Mingyao Liu, Director of IMS. The oral presentation award was received by Reha Kumar and the honorable mention to Sebastian Acosta. As posters were organized into groups, the best candidate in each group was awarded a poster prize, including Sylvia Almeida, Priscilla Chan, Saly Halawa, Jessica Johns, Lior Levy, Zijian Lou, Joelle Soriano, Jaya Tanwani, Simone Valade, and Sunny Zheng. The honorable mentions for the posters include Zachary Blatman, Emaan Chaudry, Ryan Gotesman, Shaun Hanycz, Richard Li, Michael Mehta, Isabel Shamsudeen, Gaurav Talwar, Tony Yao, and Shatabdy Zahid. All students received a certification of participation on the successful completion of the Summer Program.

At the end of the Research Day, Dr. Venkateswaran congratulated the summer students on their research achievements, wishing them the very best in all their future endeavors. She also thanked all the supervisors for their invaluable efforts in providing students with the environment, motivation, and guidance in their research. In addition, she sent her sincere appreciation to all the funding partners, the faculties, and students who served as speakers and judges at the Research Day. Overall, it was another successful SURP summer.