Undergraduate students in the spotlight

Gilliam and Amy. Photo credit: Dr. Lubanska

It’s that time of the year again! Honours Undergraduate Colloquium presentation of 4th-year undergraduate students thesis. As usual, the porter lab did not disappoint. Our students won prizes for the 1st and 3rd place in the category of Molecular and Microbiology, 16 students were competing in this category.
Amy Basilius was awarded the first place and Gillian Denome the 3rd.

Developing the knowledge of scientific research in young students is a strong part of the research in our lab. Generally, these students start working, as a volunteer, in our lab when they are in the 2nd year of their undergraduate course. They get familiar with the research areas available and get to know the Research Associate that is responsible for each of these areas. When they arrive at the end of the 3rd year they have a clear vision of which area they would like to join to work on their 4th thesis’ project.
This year our lab hosted 8 students. These students were distributed between our research groups (The Brain, The Breast, Fish, and Tuberin). The Research Associates are responsible for creating a healthy environment for these students develop their thesis, as well to teach techniques that they will use in their projects, and guide the student in the development of the hypothesis and objectives for their thesis. I couldn’t forget the graduate students that are always available to help the undergraduate students with their questions, techniques, and discussion about the project. Dr. Porter’s enthusiasm and passion for science play a great role in the formation of a new scientist in our lab. She is always available for discussions and for helping the students with their projects.

Now a quick interview with this year’s winners:

Dr. Fifield is the Research Associate responsible for The Brain group and supervised Amy Basilious.

Could you tell us about your experience supervising undergraduate students in Porter Lab?

Dr Fifield: Being able to watch a student learn and develop as a researcher and student in the lab is one of the highlights of my job. I find working with students very rewarding and having them receive any sort of award or recognition for their work is amazing and just an added bonus. To watch a student go from not knowing how to do some of the basic experiments, to then coming up with their own ideas and questions about their project and contributing in such a large way to the research is a very rewarding experience. We spend a lot of time with the students going over literature, troubleshooting experiments, and discussing next steps and results, and to see that work pay off- whether it’s a first-place award or even an experiment finally coming together after months of not working makes it all worthwhile!

How long have you and Amy worked on this project?

Dr. Fifield: Amy started in the lab in the summer of 2015 learning some of the basic techniques, and some of the work she did that summer contributed to a recently submitted paper in the lab. Her project looking at the essentiality of Spy1 in mammary development really started at the beginning of 2016. This was the lab’s first step into the world of CRISPR/Cas so it was a big learning curve for all of us. We spent a lot of time troubleshooting and working through problems we encountered along the way and to see it all pay off has been fantastic.

Has this project/student won other awards or fellowships?

Dr. Fifield: Amy was the recipient of an NSERC USRA for 3 summers in the lab, and was extremely dedicated to the project which was key to getting it all done.

Now you are going to hear directly from the awarded students
First place: Amy Basilious

Could you give us an insight of how it is to work on a project for more than a year and at the end be awarded the first place?

Amy: Working on a project for an extended period of time meant that I became highly invested in the work that I was doing. It meant that I was always striving to give 110% because I had such a strong personal drive to achieve my project’s goals. Over the course of my project, I definitely faced setbacks. Dr. Porter told me right from the start that it was a challenging project but would be very rewarding in the long-term. Still, there were times when I wondered if I would be able to accomplish anything with my project. My mentor, Dr. Bre-Anne Fifield, often reminded me that it would all work out at the end. They could not have been more right. The challenges and long-term nature of the project made the accomplishments that much more rewarding. Receiving this award has been a great encouragement, as it is a reminder that perseverance and hard work really does pay off.

Which advice would you give to an undergraduate student that is thinking of joining the Porter lab for a 420 project?

Amy: Do it! Get involved in research if you can. It certainly can be a challenge, but it really is worth it! That feeling of accomplishment you experience when you’ve been working so hard at an experiment and finally get it to work is priceless; it truly is the most amazing feeling. I can promise that you will be in good hands in the Porter lab. I have been fortunate enough to have met many wonderful individuals over the past years, from my fellow undergrads to the grad students and RAs, and of course Dr. Porter. You will have incredibly talented, passionate, and caring mentors but also lifelong friends – and you will receive endless support from both. I couldn’t have asked for a better lab experience. So if you’re thinking of joining, please do reach out to one of the RAs! You won’t be disappointed.Here are this year students and the title of their thesis

Third place: Gillian Denomme

How your view of research has changed during this time in Porter lab?

Gillian: Entering university, I did not have a full understanding of the research completed at the University of Windsor, nor its level of importance to our society. By volunteering in Porter lab throughout my undergrad, I learned very quickly just how important research is. Not only that, but I discovered that you can do research in pretty much anything your heart desires. However, research is not easy and can take many years to receive results and answer anticipated questions.

Which advice would you give to an undergraduate that is thinking in joining Porter lab for a 420 project?

Gillian: Doing a 420 in the Porter lab is one of the best experiences you will receive from the University of Windsor. Attending class and completing examinations cannot give you the full science experience. By completing a 420 in the Porter lab I have gained knowledge and skills no professor or book could teach me. There are so many individuals working on diverse projects that are all willing to help you through your journey. If you decided to complete a 420, some words of advice are to make sure to keep your lab book up to date!

Undergraduate students and few of the graduate students in Porter Lab. Photo credit: Philip Habashy


And here are all the Porter Lab undergraduate students with the title of their Colloquium presentation:

– John Talia: A Balancing Act: The Cyclin-Like Protein, Spy1, Promotes Cancer Formation in the Liver
– Amy Basilious: Exploring the Essentiality of Spy1 in Mammary Development
– Youshaa El-AbedThe: Role of Spy1 in Glioblastoma Multiforme Initiation and Progression
– Jackie Fong: Role of Tuberin and Cyclin B1 in the DNA Damage Response
– Jonathan O’Beid: Role of Mechanical and Structural Properties of GBM Microenvironment in Tumor Aggressiveness and Therapy Resistance
– Gillian Denomme: Effects of Nutrient Depletion in Cell Proliferation and Growth
– Dalton Liwanpo: The Localization of Spy1 Protein in the Neurogenic Niche of the Subventricular Zone: Implication in Neural Stem Cell Pool Regulation11
– Philip Habashy: Role of GABAB and CXCR4 in Medulloblastoma (collaboration with Dr. Zhang)

Congratulation to all of our Undergraduate students!

Elizabeth Fidalgo, Ph.D


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