UofTMed Students Showcase their Research Pursuits
If there’s one thing everyone in the Faculty of Medicine has in common — from surgery to family and community medicine, rehabilitation sciences to translational research — it’s the multitude of questions we are all pursuing.
Across the Faculty, researchers and students ask: “Can the proteins in nerve cells lead to a treatment for autism?”; “How can a simple innovation help get you home sooner after surgery?”; “Are life-saving opioid overdose kits accessible enough?”; and much more.
This week, Faculty of Medicine students put their quests for answers on display at the UofTMed Student Showcase — a grown-up science fair for donors and friends. Students showcased their work in a variety of research areas like HIV, nanotechnology and making transparent organs that could improve cancer diagnostics; they let guests try out robots and wearable technology designed to help people recover after a stroke; and put to the test virtual reality goggles that prepare patients for surgery.
“What’s so exciting about the work done at the Faculty of Medicine is that it’s sophisticated and complex, but also extremely varied and unexpected,” said Dean Trevor Young. “I’m consistently surprised — and inspired — by the work our faculty and students are involved in.”
The Faculty is known for advanced research opportunities, including various clinician-scientist training programs and innovative partnerships across disciplines including engineering and computer sciences. Scholarships, bursaries and other awards also help get many of these projects off the ground — which is why donors were keen to see their impact in action.
“The projects highlight the value of supporting future health care leaders,” said Darina Landa, executive director of the Faculty’s Office of Advancement. “They will push their fields forward.”
The students who presented projects:
- Rehabilitation Sciences Institute and Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) graduate students Aaron Yurkewich, Michelle Nguyen and Gillian Szeto research and develop robotic tools for people recovering from stroke. Yurkewich is developing a wearable finger assistance robot to help patients regain finger extension while performing regular tasks.
- Family and community medicine resident Dr. Latif Murji developed a role-playing simulation that puts participants in the shoes of Canadians living in poverty, deepening their understanding of social determinants of health.
- MD/PhD student Hannah Kozlowski, a member of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Professor Donald Branch’s lab, found that histones (proteins that help package DNA) were present in high quantities in the inhibitory regions of crocodile blood, and that human histones can affect HIV infection.
- Jacquelin Forsey is an MSc student in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology who uses latent semantic analysis to determine how educational materials refer to older adults and aging — and how changing attitudes could improve care.
- Through the Department of Medicine’s Clinician Scientist Training Program, Dr. Alanna Weisman evaluates the performance of an “artificial pancreas” for type 1 diabetes.
- MD/PhD student Irene Harmsen studies neurosurgery and uses magnetoencephalography to examine cortical responses to deep brain stimulation. She also created a children’s storybook about synthetic biology.
- MD/PhD student Shrey Sindhwani is part of a team, supervised by Professor Warren Chan, that modified and improved a technique that makes tissues from organs like kidneys or livers nearly transparent, which could improve diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer.
- Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology students Timothy Balvers, Emilie Macleod, Xinyang Zhou mapped out the availability of opioid overdose kits across the GTA— and found that they’re not always offered where the government thinks they are.
- Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery resident Dr. Dale Podolsky developed a cleft palate simulator that allows trainees to perform all the steps of a cleft palate repair as though they were in an actual operating room.
- lead and second-year MD student Kimia Sorouri challenged attendees — including Dean Young — on their surgical skills. The popular 2-week summer program allows first-year medical students to explore surgical specialties.
- IBBME student Vicki Komisar is co-inventor of the MoveEasy Pole System, a modular system of vertical pressure-fit poles and clamp-on rails that helps patients go home sooner after surgery.
- Department of Nutritional Sciences graduate student Sara Stinson works in Professor Elena Comelli’s lab, and investigates how diet can be used to benefit the relationship between gut microbiota and the host. She also researches links between gut and bone health.
- Translational Research Program graduate students Lily Ye, Gurpreet Kamboj, Tiffanie Kei and Cheryl Tsui tackle long wait lines for mental health services at Canadian Universities and helped revamp the U of T Health Services website through six co-creation sessions with students.
- Department of Molecular Genetics student Mathieu Quesnel-Vallieres is part of a team at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute that identified a protein that seems linked to the development of autistic characteristics, and may account for at least one third of autism spectrum cases.
- Translational Research Program graduate students Drs. Fahad Alam and Clyde Matava developed a virtual reality program that allows patients to “experience” the journey of being prepped for surgery and transferred to the operating room, as a kind of exposure therapy.
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