Brock student researchers shortlisted in national video competition

Five Brock University students have earned spots in the Top 40 of a national video competition showcasing student research.Graduate students Danielle Williams, Emily Ham, Michael McAlpine, Sarah Walker and undergrad Mateo Andrade join others vying for awards in the Science, Action! competition sponsored by one of Brock’s major funders, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).Science, Action! features student-produced, 60-second videos on research projects funded by NSERC.Michael McAlpine, PhD candidate in Health Sciences.In order to make it into the semifinals of the competition, the five Brock students will need the support of the University community.From now to Wednesday, March 27, the 25 videos with the most views on YouTube will advance to the next round, where a panel of judges will select the winners.Brock University’s video entries include:Big Problem, Nano Solutions (Mateo Andrade)Brewing Medicine (Danielle Williams)Microplastics — A Macroproblem (Emily Ham)Regeneration, Snailed It (Sarah Walker)Tea-rrific Bone (Michael McAlpine)“I am so proud of our students and the amazing research they are doing,” says Diane Dupont, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies. “To have five Brock students in the Top 40 in a national contest is an amazing achievement for the University.”“These videos are an excellent representation of the high calibre of research that occurs across our campus. These students have gone above and beyond to make their research accessible to a broad audience. Please support them by sharing their videos and letting everyone in your networks know about the exciting ways Brock students are contributing to the betterment of society.”More details on Brock’s contestants:Danielle Williams, a PhD candidate in Biotechnology, studies how plants can be used to create anti-cancer drugs. Plants produce a wide range of chemicals with important medicinal properties, many of which belong to a class of compounds called alkaloids. Madagascar periwinkle produces more than 100 alkaloids, two of which are chemotherapeutics used to treat many cancers, including Hodgkin lymphoma. Due to the low accumulation of these alkaloids in plants, production of these medicines is costly. The aim of Williams’ research is to engineer yeast strains capable of producing alkaloids in a bioreactor system, which will make it possible to generate higher yields of these valuable chemicals at a lower cost.Watch here: youtube.com/watch?v=WslLSXdu7nAEmily Ham, a master’s student in Earth Sciences, studies how microplastics have become a cause for concern in recent years due to their widespread distribution and potential threat to aquatic life. Her research investigates the presence and pathways of microplastics in the Niagara region, which involves investigating treated wastewater, local stream water and agricultural soil samples from fields applied with wastewater biosolids. Results indicate that microplastics are widespread in the Niagara region, likely contributing to plastic concentrations in Lake Ontario. This research will help inform individuals and our municipality on the impact that our water treatment and agricultural practices have on the distribution and accumulation of microplastics in our freshwater bodies.Watch here: youtube.com/watch?v=_fITsR9_X18 Mateo Andrade, an undergrad Biotechnology student, works under the wing of experts in Assistant Professor Feng Li’s bioanalytical chemistry research group. His project involves the use of DNA nanotechnology to develop next generation point of care devices. These novel devices are developed in order to detect a multitude of biomarker targets that are linked to known diseases. This is accomplished by using DNA walkers. He hopes that his research contributions will help to address meaningful biological and biomedical questions.Watch here: youtube.com/watch?v=v5PGDSQQjdM   Michael McAlpine, a PhD candidate in Health Sciences, is researching how nutrition and diet can influence the human body. More specifically, McAlpine is determining the effectiveness of consuming polyphenols from tea to improve bone quantity and quality as well as revealing the mechanisms through which this might occur.Watch here: youtube.com/watch?v=XgRsNqFVoXM Sarah Walker, a PhD candidate in Biology working under the supervision of Professors Robert Carlone and Gaynor Spencer, studies neuronal regeneration in the central nervous system of the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. Unlike humans, the snail can regenerate cells within its brain as an adult, making it a great system to investigate how regeneration works. Walker studies microRNAs, which are small non-coding RNAs, and their distribution within regenerating cells. Using fluorescent tags, she is able to visualize their localization during different stages of regeneration and determine how up-regulating/inhibiting their expression alters neuronal growth.Watch here: youtube.com/watch?v=8wo_3u9vfMo

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