The Ring

Science honours students parade their research

Thu, 2012-03-08 12:46

L-R: Emma Conway describes her first-place research project to remblay, Gillis a
L-R: Emma Conway describes her first-place research project to remblay, Gillis and Lipson. Photo: Phil Saunders

A throng of people gathers around an island of poster boards in the atrium of the Bob Wright Centre. Undergraduate students are proudly discussing their research to a caravan of professors judging them on their research and the way they explain it. Welcome to HonoursFest 2012, the first annual celebration of undergraduate science research at UVic.

"HonoursFest was born out of the belief that the capstone of any undergraduate degree is taking on original research,” says Dean of Science Rob Lipson. “Students performing the research and then explaining their work to a general audience is a wonderful example of integrating research and teaching missions.”

Of the 20 participants in this first annual event, four were given honorable mention, while three more walked away with cash prizes. Honorable mentions earned a free membership to a professional association in their discipline while third- and second-place winners earned a $1,000 cash prize. The first place winner received a cash prize of $2,000.

Associate Dean of Science Kathryn Gillis spearheaded the event. She says it will help students prepare for graduate school.

“They have now completed a small part of what they will be expected to do in graduate school,” Gillis says, “…and hopefully this experience will encourage them to continue—ideally, at UVic.”

First prize went to undergraduate Emma Conway from the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. The self-described “lab rat” so enjoyed learning in the lab that she is now planning to pursue a graduate degree next year at UBC.

“One of the reasons I was attracted to UVic was the university’s amazing immunology lab,” says Conway. “My advisor John Webb (adjunct faculty with the Deely Research Centre of the BC Cancer Agency), really encouraged me in the lab, and now I’m looking to do more of that kind of work.”

“An event like this allows students to explain complex ideas simply to others,” says Dr. Reeta Tremblay, vice-president academic and provost. “I know first-hand the passion people have when they talk about their work and the equally exciting feeling they get when their listeners get it. I think this an important part of the integration of teaching and research.”

First Place

Emma Conway: Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology

Therapeutic vaccine elicits immune response against multiple cancer-causing HPV strains.

Second place

Tabitha Gaudet: Department of Biology

Will climate change influence nitrogen form preference in conifers?

Third place

Rebecca Courtemanche, Department of Chemistry

Just add tetrazoles