McGill’s 2016 Undergraduate Research Conference

The Undergraduate Research Conference that took place during the fall semester of 2016 featured original research projects by students selected across various science majors. The keynote address was given by Dr. Frederic Bertley (B.Sc 1994, Ph.D. 2000; Senior Vice President of Science and Education, The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), entitled “A Note to Our Future Scientists: Pay Attention to the Importance of Science in a Growing Clueless Society”. Some highlights from the many great research projects are given below.

Jason MacKay is a U2 Honours Math and Physics student. He has worked on developing a cost-effective Compton gamma ray imager. This device detects the presence of gamma rays and is currently used around the globe in astrophysics, nuclear medicine, and detection of nuclear threats during security checks. MacKay was able to develop a model that significantly reduces cost, while still maintaining the resolution of current Compton gamma ray imagers by using PMT detectors on either side of a scintillating material.

Michael Chen‘s research centred on organic dust (OD), a pollutant that pig farmers are exposed to. Prolonged exposure to OD can result in inflammation of pulmonary airways. His project focused primarily on examining the role of Nrf2, a protective transcription factor, whose inhibition may be the cause of inflammation caused by exposure to OD.

Carina Fan studied the relationship between memories and decision-making. Memories can be classified into episodic memories, created by personal experiences, and semantic memories, created by the memorization of facts. This research project sought to discover which of the two categories had a greater influence on clinical decision-making. She assessed this through a case study, and concluded that engaging episodic memory processes when learning appears to bias later diagnostic decisions.

Miles Cranmer is a physics student who spent last summer developing “BiFrost.” This software allows one to analyze data much more efficiently in only a line of code. Cranmer’s project has applications in analyzing data from interferometers, such as the powerful Event Horizon Telescope, by deleting useless data and keeping the useful ones.

Marilena Anghelopoulou‘s research project explored the impact of the production, use, and disposal of metal halide lamps compared to their more modern counterparts – solid state lighting. The latter emerged victorious as it was determined to be the safest for the environment and human health during its entire life cycle.

Johnson Ying is a neuroscience student who studied the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in model J20 mice and the effect of the disease on special navigation. He tracked the behaviour of grid, head-direction, and border cells in the mice with the help of microdrives that held moveable tetrodes. Ying’s results showed that the cells begin to disrupt as early as two months, thus affecting the special navigation of the mice.

Ariel Geriner‘s project was on the topic of habitat loss. This research project studied how habitat connectivity impacts an ecosystem’s health. It found that the less connected an ecosystem is, the greater the impacts are, and that these impacts can take effect in a much shorter time.

 

 

 

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