Research Day 2024

April 05, 2024

The BPK Research Day Organizing Committee is pleased to invite you to the 14th Annual BPK Research Day. The event will be held in-person on Friday, April 5th, 2024 in the Big Data Hub (Burnaby campus). 

All are welcome to attend and celebrate the excellent research in the BPK department! This year’s Research Day will feature a Keynote from Dr. Pascal Bernatchez on “Cholesterol and vascular abnormalities in experimental and human chronic muscle disease”, as well as >45 poster presentations, 4 student oral presentations, and 8 short form presentations!

Registration and Poster Setup (8:30-9:00)
Welcome (9:00 - 9:15)

Poster Presentations (9:15-11:15)

See event programme for more information and abstracts.

Session 1: 9:15-10:15 Session 2: 10:15-11:15
1  Harshini Seetharam 2 Homa Hamledari
3 Meihui Li 4 Minju Kim
5 Raminder Kaur 6 Alia Arslanova
7 Molly Henneberry 8 Naseem Givzad
9 Peter J. Young 10 Omid Vakili
11 Sean Gaiesky 12 Erin Williams
13 Anis Zahedifard 14 Ephrem Mekonnen
15 Cynthia O. Onyejekwe 16 Stephanie Rayner
17 Joshua Ham & Austin Cote-Rolvink 18Mariam Butt
19 Tiffany Stead 20 Aidan Kits
21 Rickie Ma 22 Hosna Babini
23 Jack Williams 24 Shefali Vishwakarma
25 Dina Hosseini Baygi 26 Luke Everard
27 Lavisha Katyal 28 Moses Jeong
29 Ashley Jukich 30 Stefan Vukovic
31 Taha Yildirim 32 Braedan Kanai
33 Golnar Farokhi 34 Kashish Mehta
35 Renfei Zhang 36 Gurleen Grewal
37 Justin Ma 38 Anjalie Sidhu
39 Sarra Pirmohamed 40 Samantha Rothwell
41 Georgia Donaldson-Barrio 42 Maya Peterson
43 Saba Hosseini 44 Vanessa Salzano
  46 Maya Becher
Break (11:15-11:30)

Engagement Session (11:30-12:15): Research Resource Roundup

Sarah Vallee | BPK Graduate Student Guidance

Sarah is the graduate program assistant in the BPK department and has been in the role since May 2022. She supports the MSc and PhD programs on the administrative side and tends to be a first point of contact for questions and help from both current students and prospective applicants. Outside of work she enjoys swimming and a range of creative activities, including writing, drawing, and playing violin (poorly). She has a BSc in Environmental Sciences from SFU and has a keen interest in fish, rodents, and other critters.

Hazel Plante | English Literacy and Research Skills

Hazel Plante is the Liaison Librarian for BPK, MBB, Biological Sciences, and Health Sciences. She is an uninvited settler, a queer trans femme, and a writer. The first member of her family to get a university degree, she has two masters degrees from UBC: an MA (in English Literature) and an MLIS.

Dr. Victoria Claydon | Research Ethics

Victoria is a Professor in the Department of BPK. Victoria leads a human participant research program examining cardiovascular autonomic control in healthy humans, and in individuals with disorders affecting cardiovascular reflex responses or autonomic nervous regulation. Victoria has a long standing interest in research ethics, and was a member of the SFU Research Ethics Board (REB) for ~10 years; she recently stepped down after two years as Vice-Chair of the REB at SFU.

Dr. Lupin Battersby | Knowledge Mobilization

Lupin is SFU’s Director, Knowledge Mobilization (KM). In this role, she provides training, KM consulting, and is working to support better institutional recognition for KM and research impact. Her KM interest was sparked 20 years ago when holding two contracts, one as a clinical counsellor, the other a research assistant, and she experienced first-hand the gap between research and practice. Since that time, she has worked in roles in and out of academia with a primary focus on the challenges and opportunities to mobilize research in

Lunch (12:15 - 1:05)
Transition to Presentation Studio (1:05-1:15)

Keynote Address 1:15-2:20: Cholesterol and vascular abnormalities in experimental and human chronic muscular disease

Dr. Bernatchez received his PhD from the Montreal Heart Institute and University of Montreal in 2002. He later trained In the laboratory of Professor William Sessa at Yale University where he was a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada- and American Heart Association-supported fellow. He returned to Canada in 2007 as a Scholar of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and a junior faculty at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

He now leads 2 research laboratories at St. Paul’s Hospital and Point Grey Campus that focus on lipid abnormalities in muscular dystrophy and endothelial function in atherosclerosis, Marfan syndrome and diabetes. As a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA), he leads a UBC-funded research excellence cluster called AATHEN – the Advanced Angiotensin Therapeutics Network – a drug discovery incubator at UBC.

Short Form Presentations (2:20-3:20)

3-Minute Thesis (2:30-3:00)

1. Anis Zahedifard | Msc Neural Echoes: Deciphering Sleep's Symphony of Learning and Memory

2. Sameen Kavian | MSc Cycling Through Your Cycle - Effects of the menstrual cycle on sprint performance and anaerobic capacity in female athletes

3. Erin Williams | PhD In at the deep end: the challenges of fainting during artistic swimming

4. Justin Ma | BSc Investigating Behavioral Abnormalities in Children with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder

5. Sarra Pirmohamed | BSc  Building Consensus: What Outcomes are Essential to Measure in Randomized Controlled Trials of Physical Activity for Older Adults?

6. Saba Hosseini | BSc Cannabidiol: Treating Post-Covid Cardiac Issues

Lightning Talks (3:00-3:20)

1. Dr. Alexandra Coates Exercise Physiology and Performance

2. Dr. James Wakeling Muscles in Motion

Break (3:20-3:30)

Student Oral Presentations (3:30-4:30)

Clara V. Etter: Pilot study on surface skin temperatures and heat flux responses at -40°C and a windchill temperature of -60.9°C for size-matched women and men with an upper limb protected by extreme-cold garments.

Hypothesis: Size-matched women and men wearing extreme cold garments have the same thermo-physiological responses and time to failure during a -40°C exposure of the upper limb. Methods: Two women and 2 men participants were matched for hand width, length, circumference, and surface area/volume. They were 31.0±3.2 years old (mean±SD), weighed 63.7±0.5 kg, were 1.72±0.03 m tall and had a body mass index of 21.1±2.1 kg/m2. Instrumentation: Participants wore a 2-layer extreme cold mitten and the upper half of a ~ 3.1 clo extreme-cold clothing ensemble. There were 16 measurement sites for surface skin temperature (TSK) and heat flux (HF) including both sides of the fingers, thumb, hand, forearm and upper arm. SFU Office of Research Ethics approved by the study.

Protocol: The entire dominant arm was entered into a climatic chamber opening with a dry bulb temperature of -40°C for 60 min. For 20 min there was no wind followed successively by a 40 km·h-1 wind, giving a windchill temperature of -60.9°C, for 20 min on each of the anterior and posterior sides of the upper limb. Time to failure was the first TSK site = 10°C. Statistics: Comparisons were with a two-tailed, unpaired t-test with an alpha=0.05.

Pilot Study Results: For size-matched groups no differences (p>0.05) were evident for age, morphology, TSK, or HF responses. Mean values (n=4) included TSK_HAND of 17.5±1.6°C, TSK_FINGERS of 18.0±2.0°C and TSK_LOWESTVALUE of 11.05 ± 2.0°C. Maximal mean HF across all sites was -368.6±60.7 W·m-2 and mean time to failure was 40:78±14:69 (mm:ss) without any participant reaching 60 min. Conclusions: Size-matched women and men had the same thermo-physiological responses and time to failure during a -40°C exposure of the upper limb. Funding Sources: Canadian Department of National Defence, Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program, and Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

Rebekah H.Y. Lee: Impact of autonomic severity of spinal cord injury on the hypoxic ventilatory response

Many individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) experience sleep apnea with recurrent hypoxic exposure. In addition to respiratory muscle paralysis, injury to descending sympathetic pathways is postulated to impact efferent responses to peripheral chemoreceptor stimuli, but the additive impact of autonomic injury on the ventilatory responses to hypoxia remain unclear. We characterised the hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR; rise in minute ventilation [VE] per % decrease in blood oxygen saturation [SpO2]) and decline (HVD; rate of diminishing VE response following HVR) in individuals with SCI, considering autonomic completeness of injury.

We tested individuals with SCI (autonomically-complete n=7, 37±14yrs; autonomically-incomplete n=8, 39±10yrs) and healthy controls (n=12, 34±13yrs). Autonomic completeness was defined by lesion level (>T7), low frequency systolic blood pressure variability (LFSAP; <1mmHg2), and plasma noradrenaline (<0.56nM). After an isocapnic (PETCO2=42mmHg [resting PETCO2+2mmHg]) baseline recording, participants underwent hypoxic (PETO2=50mmHg) end-tidal forcing for 10 minutes. SpO2 (pulse oximetry), tidal volume (VT), and respiratory frequency (RF) were measured continuously. HVR was determined until VEmax, and HVD from VEmax to 10 min.

All groups desaturated similarly (85.2±2.8%; p=0.56) at the time of V ̇_Emax (180±68s; p=0.21). HVR was lower in autonomically-complete SCI than controls (0.33±0.17L·min-1·%-1 vs. 0.88±0.56L·min-1·%-1; p=0.03). VEmax was correlated with LFSAP (R=0.43, p=0.03) but not lesion level (R=0.34; p=0.22), and lower in autonomically-complete SCI than controls (12.7±3.6L·min-1 vs. 22.4±8.5L·min-1; p=0.04), driven by a smaller VT (0.86±0.27L vs. 1.28±0.36L; p=0.05) rather than lower RF (15.46±5.67bpm vs. 17.26±3.75bpm; p=0.37). Autonomically-incomplete SCI produced a similar HVR (0.71±0.70L·min-1·%-1; p=0.54) and VEmax (17.6±8.4L·min-1; p=0.33) to controls. HVD was similar between groups (controls -39.0±42.7%, autonomically-incomplete SCI -54.3±34.1%, autonomically-complete SCI -27.8±134.7%; p=0.74). The autonomic contribution to the blunted HVR may reflect altered chemoreceptor responses, and/or habituation to sleep apnea.

Considering the high respiratory morbidity and mortality of those with SCI, evaluation of autonomic injury with respiratory function is paramount.

Yasaman Maaref: Matrix rigidity determines the pathogenicity of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy associated TNNT2 variants

Abstract Introduction: Understanding the mechanical properties of cells is crucial, especially for cardiomyocytes that rhythmically generate and experience changes in force within their environment. Cardiomyocytes sense the matrix rigidity through biomechanical signals, leading to distinct phenotypes when cultured on substrates mimicking normal and diseased heart stiffness.

Objectives: This study investigates the effect of matrix stiffness on the contractile phenotype of hiPSC-CMs harboring a Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) causing TNNT2 variants (e.g., R278C+/-) in comparison to their isogenic controls, aiming to better comprehend disease pathogenicity.

Methods: Among various disease-in-a-dish study models, hiPSC-CMs stand out as an unlimited cell source for cardiac disease modeling. To enhance the maturation of hiPSC-CMs, a micropatterned PDMS substrate was fabricated. Firstly, both R278C+/- and their isogenic control (WT) hiPSC-CMs were cultured on 5 kPa and 50 kPa, PDMS matrices to recapitulate healthy and fibrotic cardiac conditions, respectively. Then a functional analysis was conducted on hiPSC-CMs ± R278C+/- to investigate the mechanisms by which matrix rigidity affect the function of both lines of hiPSC-CMs. To measure the sarcomere length as a function of time in hiPSC-CM 2D monolayers, SarcTrack, a Matlab algorithm was used.

Results: The results of the contractility analysis showed a significant increase in the sarcomere shortening and contractile kinetics of R278C+/- compared to WT for cells after 3 days only on 5 kPa PDMS substrate. Conclusion: Therefore, providing a physiological environment for the cells set the stage for studying alterations in cardiomyocyte function in cardiac diseases.

Mohammadamin Nikmanesh: Understanding one-on-one human walking interactions in a natural environment

Navigation is fundamental to daily life. People often must navigate crowded spaces, circumventing other pedestrians and other obstacles and identifying landmarks necessary to reach their destination. Past research on collision avoidance has primarily focused on pedestrian behaviour in controlled lab settings, where factors are examined in isolation. However, this approach fails to account for the combined effect of these factors in real-life environments. To bridge this gap, we filmed pedestrians walking along a busy public walkway in Metro Vancouver. We asked which factors—crowd density, distance from each other, age, and whether one looked distracted or had their mobility constrained due to holding, pushing, or pulling on object or animal—predicted a pedestrian’s decision to deviate from their current walking trajectory.

Here we focused on one-on-one pedestrian interactions. We used a deep learning algorithm to identify and track pedestrians, a custom computer program to extract pedestrian kinematics, and had a set of three volunteers (blinded to the study purpose) complete a questionnaire to provide details about each interaction. We analyzed 442 one-on-one pedestrian interactions. In 44% of cases, pedestrians deviated from their walking trajectory, with most deviations occurring when pedestrians were between 1 and 8 m apart. Through multiple logistic regression, we identified medial-lateral (ML) separation and crowd size at 8 m apart as significant predictors of path deviation.

Results showed that pedestrians were less likely to deviate from their path in conditions of high crowd density and when they found themselves within close proximity to others, highlighting the intuitive and reactive nature of pedestrian navigation in crowded spaces. Factors predicting ML separation at the point of walking past each other included mobility constraints and distraction.

Importantly, our results show that it is possible to understand human navigation and collision avoidance behaviour in unconstrained real-world environments.

Awards and Transition to Social (4:30-5:00)
Social @ SFU Biercraft (5:15-Late)