Aug. 30, 2021

The McCaig Institute celebrates multi-disciplinary summer student research

Summer student research experiences highlight the breadth of multi-disciplinary research expertise within the McCaig Institute
Online event

The fifth annual McCaig Institute Summer Student Symposium was held online on August 19th. The symposium included 33 summer student presenters who led oral and poster presentations – the summer students did a fantastic job showcasing their research. A huge congratulations to the thirteen students who received awards for being top presenters in their session and to the two students who were voted fan favourites. 

The McCaig Institute's summer research experiences highlight the breadth of multi-disciplinary research expertise within the community, summer student projects included studying disc degeneration in the spine and evaluating the effectiveness of immunotherapy for sarcomas.

Hear from Valentine and Jessica about their summer student research projects:

Jessica Corpuz 

Jessica Corpuz was awarded 1st prize in one of the three oral presentation sessions.

Jessica Corpuz, a summer student in Dr. Roman Krawetz’s Lab, is studying intervertebral discs in the spine to understand the mechanisms of disc degeneration, which is a common cause of lower back pain.

For her research project, she is working with a mice model using a novel approach to accelerate aging in the discs to monitor the progression of degeneration, the cell population, and the morphology of the discs over time. Following this research stage, the team plans to study the functional properties of the degenerative discs by incorporating a biomechanics component through the Human Performance Lab.

Jessica Corpuz hiking in the mountains

Photo provided by Jessica Corpuz.

Jessica’s research journey began in the second year of her undergraduate degree when she participated in a summer research term in the Krawetz lab with a project analyzing knee joints. The research experience solidified her interest in biomedical engineering and her goal of working in research and development. “The appeal of research and development is working with a real-world problem and coming up with a solution that translates to the community and impacts people's lives,” explains Jessica.

Jessica recently graduated from the University of Calgary’s Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering program with a specialization in Biomedical Engineering and is currently completing her thesis project during a summer research term with support from the Alberta Spine Foundation. Jessica is also a summer student representative on the McCaig Trainee Committee, where she helps organize events and opportunities for summer students.

Valentine Deregnaucourt 

Valentine Deregnaucourt, a third-year Kinesiology student from the University of Lethbridge, is working in Dr. Michael Monument’s lab evaluating the effectiveness of combined immunotherapy using a stimulator of interferon genes (STING) receptor to target soft tissue sarcomas, a type of cancer that develops in bones and soft tissues.

“The goal of my project is to help find an effective immunotherapy for undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS), an extremely aggressive disease which is difficult to target with immunotherapy," says Val.

Valentine Deregnaucourt

Photo provided by Valentine Deregnaucourt

For her research project, she is using a mouse model approach to analyze the effectiveness of combining STING agonists with anti-PD1 therapy in activating immune cells in the tumour site to produce an anti-tumour response. The team measures the anti-tumour response through imaging and monitoring tumor growth. If the combined immunotherapy produces an effective immune response, this strategy could improve treatment options and survival for patients with UPS.

Val aspires to one day be an oncologist and she hopes to impact the field by leading research. “I am driven by research because I love the idea of discovering new things, building knowledge, and finding solutions. In researching a disease, like cancer, we are trying to find variables that can potentially help control disease.”

As a summer student representative on the McCaig Trainee Committee, Val helped summer students get the most out of their research experience by creating opportunities for students to engage with the McCaig community.