By Chantall Van Raay
The Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) recognized young scientists with an eye for the innovative during the recent Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair.
Jason Fan, a Grade 11 student from Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton, was the first place winner of the IIDR prize that recognized the best senior project in infectious disease, drug discovery or human health. Fan’s project involved testing ligustrazine, a drug derived from traditional Chinese medicine. He examined if ligustrazine would be a valuable therapeutic for Alzheimer's disease by protecting neurons from cell death caused by oxidative stress. He performed his research under the guidance of Dr. Margaret Fahnestock, Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.
Fan also qualified for the Canada-Wide Science Fair, to be held in May in Charlottetown, P.E.I. this May.
First runner-up for the IIDR prize was a joint project by Manjot Sanjha and Dennis Xu, Grade 11 students from Oakville’s Iroquis Ridge High School. Their project examined a proposed treatment that could possibly destroy colorectal cancer cells. Their goal was to modify the surface features of a certain type of bacteria so that they would specifically target colorectal cancer cells instead of normal cells. They conducted their experiments in the lab of Dr. Clifford Lingwood at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.
They will travel to Pittsburgh for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh.
Second runner-up for the IIDR prize was Martin Calotti, a Grade 11 student from King’s Christian Collegiate, whose project was titled “Neem Plant Extract Against Bacteria and Fungi.”
Several IIDR members served as volunteers and judges at BASEF with took place this year at Mohawk College, including Dawn Bowdish, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.
“For many students this was their first opportunity to meet a real live scientist and although they were often nervous at first, they thoroughly enjoyed presenting their work to our IIDR judges,” Bowdish said. “Our IIDR members found their enthusiasm inspiring and received a lot of questions about their own work.”
She added that the IIDR award, valued at $2,000, was one of the fair’s most coveted prizes. “A number of parents were elbowing their kids and saying, "you're going to win that one next year, right?"
The BASEF recognizes science projects of Grades 7 to 12 students from Hamilton, Halton, Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk. This year 430 students competed for trips, prizes, and scholarships worth almost $140,000, with almost half of the participants winning a prize. A list of winners, including pictures, titles and abstracts of the students' projects is available on the BASEF website.
Image caption: Dawn Bowdish presents the IIDR Award to Jason Fan.