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PhD students attend the International Student Research Forum
By Sarah Campbell
In June, three graduate students in the Faculty of Health Sciences were invited to the International Student Research Forum (ISRF), an international stage for research students to collaborate beyond the boundaries of disciplines and nationalities.
The forum, which took place this year at the University of Southern Denmark, is an annual opportunity for students conducting research to develop professional relationships with others in related fields which may lead to scientific advances in the future. FHS PhD students Nathan Gock, Milad Parpouchi, and Amanda Butler were among those invited to participate in this year’s event.
For all three students, the opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration was a strong draw for attending.
“Interdisciplinary research has been at the core of my training in the Faculty of Health Sciences,” says Parpouchi. “The ISRF allowed me to not only share my research on an international stage, but to collaborate with and receive feedback from PhD students in a variety of disciplines.”
The interdisciplinary nature of the ISRF is highlighted by the varied research being conducted by these students.
“My PhD research is a retrospective cohort study examining individual characteristics and criminal justice-related outcomes for people with mental illness and substance use disorders in BC Correctional facilities.” says Butler, who is interested in psychiatric and criminological epidemiology. The possible implications for her research are broad, and could inform correctional or health policy and practice.
Gock is conducting research in Frank Lee’s laboratory, studying different aspects of the dopamine signaling system. He is working on discovering how proteins of the dopamine system may interact, and how these interactions may be impacted by disease.
“This research is important because the proteins we are investigating are largely linked to diseases and disorders of the dopamine signaling system, such as Parkinson’s disease,” says Gock. “Gaining a better understanding of how these protein interactions occur could lay the groundwork for discovering new targets for therapeutics in the future.”
Parpouchi’s research examines the antecedents of addiction and drug overdose among vulnerable and marginalized populations, as well as the effectiveness of various models of housing and support among people experiencing homelessness and serious mental illness. These topics are particularly important within British Columbia, where both homelessness and drug overdose have become public health crises.
There were many highlights from the ISRF for the students. For Gock and Parpouchi, gaining a broader perspective of the academic research community, and hearing from other early career researchers has been an invaluable experience.
“It was great to examine health problems and my own research questions from a variety of different disciplines,” says Parpouchi. “I have new questions I would like to explore as a result of the process, as well as a larger network of friends and colleagues I can consult and collaborate with.”
In addition to hearing presentations from other early career researchers, attendees took part in a challenge to develop a sustainable solution to a global health challenge that cost $10 or less.
“Even with only a few short hours to brainstorm, the teams developed innovative, creative, and truly remarkable solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges including loneliness, antibiotic resistance, smoking and early cancer detection,” explains Butler. “The moral of the story is: we are better when we put our minds together.”