Undergrad's research rewarded

June 10, 2004, vol. 30, no. 4
By Roberta Staley

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Jessica Kennedy, this year's undergraduate dean's medal in science recipient, is already a top-notch researcher.

Currently, she is on scholarship with the B.C. Cancer Research centre in Vancouver, working on experimental treatments for prostate cancer.

Kennedy, who majored in molecular biology and biochemistry (MBB), has earned scholarships since the beginning of her university career.

Following graduation from Chilliwack secondary school, Kennedy entered SFU buoyed by a Gordon Shrum scholarship. She then won a National Research Council (NRC) Women in Engineering and Science scholarship, one of an elite group of only 25 women across Canada.

Recipients of the $33,000 scholarship spend three summers at any of the NRC's numerous laboratories. Kennedy spent the first two summers working on a novel approach to vaccine design, research that also has practical applications for cancer treatment.

In her third summer with the council, Kennedy worked in Alzheimer research.

She focused on stimulating stem cells - embryonic cells that are genetic blank slates - to grow into neurons. She hopes that this research will lead to the development of neurons that can be transplanted into patients with brain damage, such as Alzheimer sufferers.

Kennedy's undergraduate career was not all beakers, pipettes and microscopes. An archaeology minor allowed her to explore other worlds, from pre-colonial Latin American history to the grisly world of crime through forensic anthropology.

Outside of coursework, Kennedy has been involved with many SFU organizations, including the SFU residence hall association, science mentorship program, SFU swing dancing society, and the MBB undergraduate student union.

Kennedy is waiting to learn whether she is accepted into medical school at either UBC or the University of Toronto.

Her extensive research background, from vaccine development to Alzheimer and cancer research, means there are many different specialties she could pursue.

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