Undergraduate Student Research Awards

SFU health sciences undergraduate students can apply for three different types of research awards, which give them the opportunity to work in a research setting with an SFU faculty supervisor. The three types of awards are:

Application Process for NSERC/ USRA-Science awards:

  1. It is the student's responsibility to find a faculty member to supervise their research work. See below for a list of SFU Health Sciences faculty members who are accepting applications from students.  Click on the toggle (+) sign to read about their research projects. This is not an exhaustive list, so please approach the instructor you would be interested in working with. To see a complete list of SFU Health Sciences faculty members, please visit: sfu.ca/fhs/people/faculty
  2. Prepare your C/V, letter of intent, and unofficial transcript for review by the faculty member you are interested in working with.
  3. For NSERC or USRA-Science awards only: Make contact with the instructor by January 19, 2018 at the latest, to discuss the project and indicate your interest. This will allow time for evaluation of your application. If you seciure a faculty member who will supervise you on a research project, complete the application and hand in all required documents by January 31, 2018.
  4. Review the award links for VPR-Science or VPR-Social Science for application forms and criteria.
  5. If you are selected by the faculty member for a research position, the final deadline for all paperwork with faculty signature and approvals for Science awards is noon on Wednesday, January 31, 2018. Please drop off your completed application package signed by your faculty supervisor including unofficial transcripts, to Sheila Falconer in Blusson Hall 10701.

Lawrence McCandless

Semesters available: Summer 2018

Type of award: NSERC- USRA

Project Description: Many babies are born too soon (i.e. "preterm" before 9 months), and the causes of these preterm births are unknown. A growing body of research points to the role of environmental contaminant exposures during pregnancy as a possible cause of preterm birth. Of particular concern is cumulative exposure to multiple contaminants. While each contaminant may shorten pregnancy by only a few days, the cumulative impact of many contaminants may be substantial. The interest in environmental factors that influence pregnancy outcomes has arisen in tandem with new and important datasets that collected biomarkers in pregnant women. However, analyzing biomarkers presents extraordinary data-analytic challenges.  The USRA student will use novel epidemiology and biostatistics methods, such as machine learning techniques to analyze data.  The student will join a international team of researchers led by Lawrence McCandless undertaking analyses of the Maternal Infant Research and Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study, which is a pan-Canadian study of 2000 pregnant women and their infants.  The incumbant should have an interest in mathematics, statistics, physics or computer science and have completed courses in calculus and linear algebra with a GPA of 3.5 or greater. 

Masahiro Niikura

Semesters available: Summer 2018, Fall 2018

Type of award: VPR USRA - Science  

Project Description: My lab is working on Marek’s disease virus (MDV), an alphaherpesvirus that causes CD4-posiive T cellThere are many effective vaccines for viral diseases including MD vaccines that are used billions of doses worldwide every year. Almost all viral vaccines (except for MD vaccines) prevent diseases by eliminating infecting pathogenic virus from the host by inducing virus-specific immune responses. It usually takes at least a week to induce such immune responses. In contrast, MD live vaccines become effective only a few days after vaccination. They are effective even when they are administered to embryos that do not have mature immune systems. MD vaccines protect animals by co-existing with the pathogenic MDV in the vaccinated hosts. This suggests that a completely different mechanism from other viral vaccines that rely on adaptive specific immunities, is at work.Since MD vaccines prevent the lymphoma cell development rather than virus infection, in order to elucidate the mechanism behind the MD vaccine effect it is essential to know how MDV transforms the cells. Currently I am investigating which subpopulation(s) of CD4 T cells and when during the course of infection MDV transforms infected lymphocytes by using a recombinant MDV that expresses fluorescent proteins. I need a student who is interested in working with cells from infected birds with flowcytometer and various PCR methods. Depending on the interest of recruited student opportunity to work on infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones is also available to generate another recombinant MDV. I need a student who is careful and responsible with some previous experience in bench work. The student will be directly supervised by me on the bench.

Ralph Pantophlet

Semesters available: Summer 2018 (possible), Fall 2018 (preferred)

Type of award: VPR USRA - Science 

Project Description: Vaccines have been extremely successful in providing protection against important viral infections. However, conventional strategies have proven inadequate for developing a protective vaccine against other biomedically important viruses, e.g. HCV, RSV or HIV, and for improving vaccines for certain adversaries, e.g. flu. The Pantophlet Lab is seeking to develop novel strategies and approaches for the design of vaccines, in particular for HIV-1 and flu. We are especially interested in how antibody responses are shaped upon experimental immunization compared to infection. This collective insight informs the engineering of immunogens to elicit anti-viral neutralizing antibody (nAb) responses specifically targeted to conserved epitopes on these viruses. Because they bind conserved epitopes, such nAbs are expected to exhibit broad anti-viral activity.

The Pantophlet Lab is seeking a bright, skilled and highly self-motivated USRA student who will be able to strengthen ongoing NIH- or CIHR-funded research. Current investigations in the lab include understanding antigenic and immunogenic presentations impacting the ontogeny of anti-carbohydrate nAbs to HIV-1 and broadly active nAbs to flu [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=pantophlet+r]. Interested students must have an outstanding academic record (cGPA>3.6) and completed (B+ or higher) at least 2 semesters of upper-division laboratory coursework in biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, or virology. Students with significant hands-on experience in a research lab (e.g., through co-op) and a strong interest in pursuing graduate studies in vaccine immunology are particularly encouraged to apply.

Ian Tietjen

Semesters available: Summer 2018, future semesters possible

Type of award: VPR USRA - Science 

Project Description: A goal of our laboratory is to identify and characterize novel chemical compounds that act on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in infected cells. These studies aim to inform therapeutic strategies to achieve long-term HIV remission in patients and eventually an HIV cure. The successful student will become proficient in several techniques including cell culture, high-throughput screening, drug discovery, immunostaining, flow cytometry, and/or microscopy. Each student will be given an independent project under the supervision of senior lab members and with the potential to become the basis of an Honours thesis. Student’s results may also be presented at public conferences or written up for a scientific publication. Students will also be expected to participate in weekly lab group meetings and become familiar with the scientific literature in HIV latency and emerging therapies to combat HIV persistence. This is a great opportunity to join an exciting and highly-collaborative laboratory which is just getting started at SFU.

The ideal student will have completed courses in molecular/cell biology, virology, and/or immunology and have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Previous lab experience is a plus.

Dr. Tietjen's website is found here: https://www.sfu.ca/fhs/people/profiles/ian-tietjen.html

Interested students can contact Dr. Tietjen at itietjen@sfu.ca – please include a copy of your CV and unofficial transcript.

Meghan Winters

Semestera available: Summer 2018. Fall 2018 is also possible.

Type of award: VPR USRA - Social Science

Project Description: Note that all applications should be ready for submission by March 04, 2018. See VPR USRA- Social Science link (above) for process.  

The USRA Research Assistant (RA) will work on activities related to the Child Active Transportation Safety and the Environment (CHASE) study. The RA will work closely with the Investigators, Research Coordinators and members of the research team on studies related to child active transportation and safety.

In particular, the RA will:

- Assist with data collection at public elementary schools throughout the City of Vancouver.). The RA will be part of a team responsible for counting children arriving to school by car, walking, by bike, scooter/skateboard/roller blades and strollers as well as rating driver behaviour during school dropoff times. This work will involve early morning shifts (e.g., 8 am at school locations). The RA will be responsible for own transportation to/from schools, with reimbursement for transit or gas.

- Assist with data collection for site audits at locations around Vancouver. The RA will complete a data collection form recording details of built environment characteristics. The RA will be responsible for own transportation to/from sites, with reimbursement for transit or gas.

- Assist with validating, cleaning, or analyzing data.

- Assist the Project Coordinator with other tasks as needed.

The student will be embedded in the Dr. Winters’ Cities, Health, and Active Transportation Research Lab, a vibrant group of staff and graduate students work on diverse projects related to health, urban planning, and transportation. They will participate in bi-weekly lab meetings based at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (VGH-area), and regular meetings with the CHASE project coordinator and team. Training will be provided for all data collection activities.

We seek students who have attention to detail, are punctual and reliable, and self-motivated, and who have an interest in pursuing work or graduate research in this topic area. Students may be in their 3rd or 4th year.

Training and data collection will begin in April. Please share a CV, transcript, and statement of intent to the PI – mwinters@sfu.ca.