2024 Synergy for Current Students

Welcome to the 2024 Synergy Summer Studentship Program

We have an exciting line-up of professional development workshops, activities, and socials this year! You’ll find everything you need to know about this year’s events, as well as the participating cohort below.

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Synergy Sessions

All participating students will attend workshops, presentations and networking events as part of the program.

Download Events Schedule

Have Questions?

There is a lot of learning, connecting, research and preparation in the months ahead. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions at all about the program. Our program manager Jocelyn McKay will be happy to help!

Jocelyn McKay
Research Manager,
School of Biomedical Engineering
jocelyn.mckay@ubc.ca

Program Expectations

During the program, you will work on a defined research project with a UBC supervisor, gaining valuable lab experience. You will also participate in professional development programming and several student socials. The summer concludes with Synergy Research Day, where you will present your research to the SBME community.

Please carefully review the schedule below. Make sure you lock these dates and times into your calendar. Interacting with speakers, networking with other students, and asking questions directly is the best way to get the most out of these sessions.

Mandatory Events Schedule

May 2: Welcome Orientation & Ice Cream Social

This is your chance to kick off the new program right. Meet your peers, the program leaders, and learn more about all that’s in store over the course of the 2024 Synergy schedule. This presentation is followed by and Ice Cream Social on the BRC rooftop patio!

Presentations From Past Synergy Students

Aditya Swaro: Adi is a third-year student studying cellular & molecular neuroscience. He was awarded the SBME Synergy Studentship after his second-year, working in Dr. Mark Cembrowski’s lab at the Life Sciences Institute. During his Synergy studentship, he used spatial transcriptomics technology to analyze cellular dysregulation in the mouse brain following Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Using this analysis, he built an interactive online web portal, ‘TBISeq’, which allows any researcher to discover how their favorite gene, brain region, or cell-type is affected by TBI. Adi has presented his Synergy Project at several conferences, including those at the NIH Campus, Harvard College, and at the Synergy Research Day, where his oral talk won second place! His research at the Cembrowski Lab will continue during his upcoming co-op term. He’s happy to help answer any questions that the upcoming Synergy cohort has!

Yasmine Lau: Yasmine was part of the Synergy 2022 cohort, during which she conducted renal disease research at McNagny Lab at the Biomedical Research Centre. Her Synergy project was in collaboration with then MD/PhD candidate R. Singla (Rohling Lab), investigating quantitative ultrasound (QUS) as a novel method to detect and identify various types and stages of renal diseases. She also presented this at Molecules and Mechanisms Mediating Kidney Health (M3K) conference in the following year. Yasmine is a research assistant at Eaves Lab at BC Cancer, working on hematopoietic stem cell differentiation focused on a common B and T cell precursor.

Sabine Lim: Sabine is a 4th year Biomedical Engineering Student at the University of Victoria. She was born and raised in Vancouver. She is passionate about medical technology and biomechanics. In her free time she enjoys reading and getting outside. She did her first co-op at the Victoria Hand project, a charity organization based out of UVic that designs, builds and deploys 3D printed prosthetic arms to people in need around the world. This summer she will be pursuing an international research position at NANOTEC in Thailand. She’s here today to talk about her experience with Synergy and her work in Peter Cripton’s lab at ICORD last summer.

WHEN: 11am – 1pm
WHERE: Begins in LSC 1003; followed by an ice cream social on the BRC Rooftop Patio (as weather permits)

June 6: Lab Exploration Activity Part I & Student Social

Learn about the labs that your peers are working in, and sign up for guided tours that will happen throughout the summer. Immediately following the Lab Exploration activity, students are invited to participate in an Escape Room Social. Team up with your peers to solve mysteries using our Escape Room board games.

WHEN: 11am – 1pm
WHERE: BRC 351
FACILITATOR: Jocelyn McKay

July 4: Presentation Skills Workshop & Student Social

Delivered as a seminar focusing on oral, graphical and written forms of communication, this session will aim to give you some familiarity with the theory and practical techniques of effective communication.

WHEN: 11am – 1pm
WHERE: BRC 351
FACILITATOR: Elizabeth Castle

July 27: Career Exploration Panel & Lab Exploration Activity Part II

Meet and network with professionals in academia, healthcare, and industry, to learn about their career paths, and hear their advice on career development. Afterwards, head over to the BRC to participate in the Lab Exploration Activity Part II over lunch.

WHEN: 11am – 1pm
WHERE: LSC 1003; then BRC 351
SPEAKERS: tba
FACILITATOR: Jocelyn McKay

August 13: Synergy Research Day

Synergy Research Day is an opportunity for Synergy students to showcase their summer research projects, hear an inspirational keynote talk, and celebrate the end of the Synergy Summer Studentship Program!

WHEN: 9am – tbd
WHERE: Life Sciences West Atrium

Meet Your Synergy 2024 Cohort

Alyssa Aguason headshot

Alyssa Aguason
Alyssa Aguason is a second-year studying Neuroscience. She is interested in studying the brain and neurodevelopmental diseases at the cellular level, and plans to pursue a career in research. This summer, she’ll start her research journey at Dr. Lynn Raymond’s lab, where she will focus on the increased sensory spread in Huntington disease mice models, by conducting widefield imaging of synaptic signaling and learning to critically interpret data firsthand. In addition, she’ll also have the opportunity to broaden her understanding of neuropharmacology, which is her planned minor. Alyssa is very excited to gain insights not only into the cellular mechanisms of Huntington’s disease, but also to learn about what happens behind the scenes in these scientific articles she’s read so much about.

Amit Sharma headshot

Amit Sharma
Amit is entering his 2nd year of medical school at UBC and was born and raised in Vancouver, BC. He is passionate about image-guided and minimally invasive procedures due to their benefits such as reduced recovery times and complications. Under the supervision of Dr. David Liu, an interventional radiologist, Amit will spend the summer as a research student in the MIIPs lab completing a retrospective analysis of MRIs to determine incidence and severity of synovitis in knee osteoarthritis. This work will form the basis for a prospective trial testing a procedure called Geniculate Artery Embolization as a model of synovitis reduction. In his spare time, Amit enjoys playing badminton and video games. He is excited to apply what he learned studying kinesiology in undergrad to his summer project on MSK imaging.

Björn Holst headshot

Bjorn Holst
Björn Holst is a third-year Computer Science student at UBC. He was born in Vancouver, Canada, and grew up in Saudi Arabia, where he developed an interest in science during his time at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). His current research interests involve applying machine learning to STEM, with a focus on biology and movement. His past experiences include investigating data-driven methods of improving cis-regulatory machine learning models, designing reinforcement learning simulations in UNITY, and analyzing epigenomic data in Python and R. This summer, under Dr. Ali Bashashati and supervisor Ali Mirabadi, he will be developing and benchmarking a histopathology search engine, dedicated to diagnosing primary and metastatic cancers using The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) dataset. Outside of academics, Björn loves writing poetry, solving puzzles, and strength training.

Brian Deng headshot

Brian Deng
Brian Deng is a fourth-year Microbiology and Immunology student at UBC who grew up in Steveston, BC. Brian was recently a directed studies student in the Ciernia Lab, where he developed a flow cytometry workflow to evaluate how synaptic signalling proteins are impacted in autism spectrum disorder. Brian will continue his interest in microfluidics as an SBME Synergy Student in Dr. Carolina Tropini’s lab, where he will be growing a Gut-on-a-chip model for IBD research. Brian hopes to continue exploring his interests in innovative methods to research human disease and improve our understanding of host-microbiota interactions in IBD. In his spare time, Brian enjoys backpacking, playing board games with friends, or reading a good book.

Catherine Wang headshot

Catherine Wang
Catherine Wang is a fourth-year Biology student at UBC. Her previous research experiences include running preclinical behavioural experiments in mice to screen for novel antidepressant compounds. Currently, Catherine is a Co-op student in the Wyatt lab, where she works on a number of projects related to the application of liquid biopsy for precision oncology in advanced prostate cancer. She is passionate about leveraging principles of genetics and evolution to improve healthcare delivery and patient outcomes. This summer, under the supervision of Dr. Alex Wyatt, she will be investigating the frequency and clinical relevance of DNA damage repair mutations in patients with metastatic prostate cancer. Catherine hopes to gain more experience with bioinformatics and translational research through her project, diving into how comprehensive genomic testing in the clinic can inform treatment selection.

Christian Thorson headshot

Christian Thorson
Christian Thorson is a third year Cognitive Systems student in a bachelor of science at UBC. He is interested in the employment of AI to improve health outcomes, with history working on a machine learning algorithm to improve detection liver cancer under Dr. Tim Salcudean. Under the supervision of Dr. Purang Abolmaesumi, he will investigate various deep learning architectures to improve the accuracy and generalizability of prostate cancer detection with ultrasound data.

Edward Melnyk headshot

Edward Melnyk
Edward is entering his fifth year in Biomedical Engineering at UBC, specializing in cellular bioengineering. He is excited by the intersection of immunology and engineering. This summer, he will work under Dr. Peter Zandstra to study how different signalling pathways drive T cell development, and how human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) may be engineered into therapeutically relevant T cells. This carries relevance to immuno-oncology; the development of a universal, hPSC-derived CAR T cell bank could decrease therapeutic turnaround times and prohibitive costs, augmenting the applications and accessibility of current cell therapies. Besides his work at the Zandstra lab, Edward has contributed to an antibody discovery team at Zymeworks Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company, and worked at a bioprocessing lab, optimizing the large-scale expansion of Schwann cells for translational clinical studies. In his free time, Edward enjoys backpacking, running, mountain biking, and he is an avid landscape photographer.

Elena Greenall headshot

Elena Greenall
Elena Greenall is a third-year neuroscience student at UBC. Currently, she is a research assistant working under the supervision of Dr. Catharine Winstanley in the Laboratory of Molecular and Behavioural Neuroscience. She is interested in how neuropharmacology can be used to better understand the neurochemical basis of decision-making. In past projects, Elena looked at the impact of microdosing with the serotonin 2A agonist psilocybin on the cued Rat Gambling Task and was awarded 1st place for her poster on this research at the UBC Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Conference. Through her Synergy project, she will look at the effect of psilocybin macrodoses on rat decision-making, to determine whether psilocybin can be a potential therapy for psychiatric disorders associated with decision-making deficits. She is excited to strengthen her skills including carrying out a complex behavioural protocol, c-Fos staining and statistical analysis. In her free time, Elena enjoys yoga and trying new bakeries in Vancouver.

Gopika Makhija headshot

Gopika Makhija
Gopika Makhija, born and raised in India, is an incoming third year student in the UBC-BCIT Honours in Biotechnology (BSc.) joint program. Her research interests revolve around medical biotechnology, with a focus on developing advanced therapeutics and diagnostics to revolutionize healthcare by offering personalized treatments and early disease detection methods. She will be working under the supervision of Petya Popova, PhD Biomedical Engineering, at the Blakney Lab at MSL. In this role, she aims to gain theoretical and practical knowledge in RNA and LNP technology and other molecular biology techniques. She hopes to contribute to the development of precision therapeutic interventions with mRNA and saRNA, particularly in vaccine development and protein replacement therapies for advanced age populations. Outside of academia, Gopika enjoys connecting with new people and finding ways to integrate her personal interests, such as music and sketching, into her life.

Isabella Coccimiglio headshot

Isabella Coccimiglio
Isabella Coccimiglio is a third-year Honours Chemical Biology student at UBC who is passionate about the use of synthetic chemistry to tackle challenges in medicine. In her previous research role in the Perrin lab at UBC, she conducted large-scale organic synthesis, focusing on developing a linker molecule for an antibody drug conjugate of the toxin ɑ-Amanitin. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and the performing arts. This summer, Isabella will work under the supervision of Dr. John Madden to develop materials capable of guiding nerve fibre regrowth after spinal cord injury. Her role in the project will involve optimizing the synthesis of nanoparticles for yield and monodispersity. Isabella is looking forward to gaining hands-on experience in nanofabrication, biomaterial synthesis, and material characterization. She is also excited about the opportunity to collaborate with a multidisciplinary team.

Jeremi Kolakowski headshot

Jeremi Kolakowski
Jeremi Kolakowski is a third year Physiology and Cognitive Science student at McGill University in Montreal, QC. His interests lie in physiology, neuroscience, and biomedical engineering. He is eager to combine these fields by applying a holistic approach to research in health and sport. Born and raised in Toronto, ON, Jeremi enjoys photography, vinyl collecting, and road cycling. As a student-athlete, he has always been fascinated by recovery, risk, and injury prevention. This summer, Jeremi will be supervised by Dr. Lyndia Wu in the Sensing in Biomechanical Processes Lab (SimPL) at UBC. He is excited to gain skills in wearable sensors, human participant research, signal processing, and machine learning. He will use multi-domain neurological assessments to study the correlation between head impact exposure, biomechanics, and brain change scores.

Kisa Naqvi headshot

Kisa Naqvi
Kisa Naqvi is a fourth year Biomedical Engineering Student at UBC who has lived in Vancouver, BC for over 10 years. She is particularly passionate about harnessing engineering and biology to design and develop improved in vitro cellular models and cellular therapeutics. She was the first person from UBC to be a part of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute Internship Program and completed research at Boston Children’s Hospital utilizing patient derived intestinal organoids to support research of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Graft-versus-Host-Disease. During her time there, she was exposed to the use of Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) T cell therapies to promote immune tolerance. Under the supervision of Dr. Megan Levings, she will be optimizing the function of CAR T regulatory cells (CAR-Tregs) to improve immunosuppression in the context of organ transplantation. She is excited to extend and apply her research skills in a new environment.

Laura Ing headshot

Laura Ing
Laura Ing is a third year biomedical engineering student at UBC with an interest in cellular bioengineering and bioinformatics. She is also pursuing an arts minor in health and society. Laura is interested in researching and developing sustainable and accessible healthcare solutions. She is working at the Laboratory of Microtechnologies for Quantitative Biomedicine under Dr. Aditya Kashyap and Dr. Govind Kaigala. In this role, she is working towards creating a methodology for spatial transcriptomic barcoding on clinical archival material from castration-resistant prostate cancer specimens using open-space microfluidics. In addition to developing practical laboratory skills, Laura is looking forward to the opportunity to learn about and gain experience in the research environment.

Ming Zhang headshot

Ming Zhang
Ming Zhang is a third-year Neuroscience student at UBC, originally from Xian, China, and partly raised in Vancouver. She’s passionate about understanding brain health and memory formation, specifically on how memories are encoded and distributed throughout the brain. Under Dr. Mark Cembrowski’s guidance, Ming has been analyzing the distinct morphological traits of neurons in the subiculum that project to various downstream regions. These traits offer insight into how hippocampal information is communicated across the brain through the subiculum. This summer, Ming will explore these unique neural phenotypes further, using in vivo techniques like optogenetics and viral tracing. With support from the SBME Synergy program and the Cembrowski lab, she aims to uncover findings that contribute to our understanding of hippocampal-cortical communication.

Myra Wei headshot

Myra Wei
Myra Wei is a third year undergraduate Biomedical Engineering student at UBC, who is passionate about engineered solutions for improving diagnostics in healthcare. Her previous work involved the investigation of a novel gene transfection reagent for use in research laboratories. Through the Synergy program, Myra will be working with Dr. Samantha Grist and PI Prof. Karen Cheung. She will explore microfluidics and photonics through the development and validation of an assay using silicon photonic sensors to detect hormone markers relevant to the menopausal transition. In her extracurricular work, she leads the development of an autonomous soil testing module for her student engineering design team and guides her club to address global sustainability challenges with technological solutions.

Owen Liu headshot

Owen Liu
Owen Liu is a third year cellular and molecular neuroscience student. He is interested in creating cell-based therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases. During his recent directed studies project with the Laver Group, he began developing an assay to study the migration and synaptogenesis of retinal cells in vitro, using 3D-printed microwells. For his Synergy project with Dr. Christopher Laver and Dr. Stephanie Willerth, he will be using human pluripotent stem cells to generate grafts for treating retinal degenerative diseases and trauma. In his free time, he tries to enjoy Vancouver’s nature by going on hikes, biking along the seawall, and playing spikeball by the beach.

Simrit Boparai headshot

Simrit Boparai
Simrit Boparai is in her fourth year of biomedical engineering specializing in Biomechanics and Biomaterials. She is passionate about the field of injury biomechanics and is interested in technologies that can be used for injury prevention. Over the summer, she will be working with Dr. Calvin Kuo at the Human Motion Biomechanics Lab (HUMBL). She will be exploring the usage of inertial measurement unit sensors and through this experience, she hopes to gain insights into sensor calibration, time synchronization, and their applications in injury biomechanics. She enjoys baking and has a passion for crocheting, which stem from her interest in creativity and crafting, and ultimately motivated her to pursue a career in engineering and innovation.

Sogand Golshahian headshot

Sogand Golshahian
Sogand Golshahian is a third-year Biomedical Engineering (BMEG) student at UBC who is deeply interested in the intersection of educational pedagogy and environmental sustainability. Committed to fostering sustainable engineering practices, she is exploring ways to integrate these concepts into biomedical engineering education. Since September 2023, Sogand has had the opportunity to be a part of a multidisciplinary research team including Dr. Jenna Usprech, Dr. Calvin Kuo, Dr. Negar Harandi, and Dr. Robyn Newell. Their project over the fall involved surveying current BMEG students and alumni on their understanding of sustainability in biomedical design and their preferences for integrating these topics into the curriculum. Under the primary supervision of Dr. Jenna Usprech, Sogand aims to use this valuable data to enhance the third-year biomedical engineering design course, BMEG 357, with sustainability concepts.

Sophia Katramadakis headshot

Sophia Katramadakis
Sophia Katramadakis is a third year Biomedical Engineering student at UBC. She grew up in the beautiful town of Squamish BC and enjoys hiking, art, and writing poetry. Throughout her years in engineering, Sophia has developed a strong passion for injury biomechanics, particularly intrigued by the potential to significantly reduce injuries through innovative engineering solutions and safety device improvements. This summer Sophia will be working under the guidance of Dr. Peter Cripton to develop a biofidelic surrogate for the cervical spine, in order to advance the testing and evaluation of safety devices by accurately replicating human neck biomechanics in a surrogate that is well suited to impact testing.

Stephanie Chow headshot

Stephanie Chow
Stephanie Chow is a fourth-year undergraduate student studying Behavioural Neuroscience and Kinesiology at UBC. She is passionate about promoting well-being in a multidisciplinary way, including combining biology and technology to better understand mechanisms and treatments for neurodegenerative conditions. After working in the emergency department as a research assistant for the past year, she has been curious about applying her skills in a wet lab setting. With the SBME Synergy program, Stephanie will work at the Yachie Lab with Dr. Nozomu Yachie and PhD student Sean Okawa to develop a screening system that uncovers the phosphorylation networks behind cell development. Stephanie is excited to learn about biotechnology experiments and gain skills to conduct quality research in the future!

Tarek Alkabbani headshot

Tarek Alkabbani
Tarek Alkabbani is a third-year Electrical Engineering student at UBC Okanagan. He was born and raised in Damascus, Syria and he moved to Canada to pursue higher education. He is passionate about research and in particular deep learning, electromagnetics and biomedical applications. His work at the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Health Lab is a convergence of his interests, as he works on the development of a machine-learning pipeline that automatically segments white matter lesions from MRI scans. This pipeline can be significant as it can greatly increase the capacity of the lab and by extension the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging in its MRI analysis capabilities. Under the supervision of Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose and his co-supervisor, Dr. Roger Tam, Tarek hopes to fully deploy this pipeline as his Synergy project this summer.

Yuqing(Phoenix) Jin headshot
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Yuqing(Phoenix) Jin
Yuqing(Phoenix) Jin is a second-year Biotechnology student at UBC and BCIT. She was born in China and arrived in Vancouver in 2018. She is passionate about gene regulation and synthetic biology to improve healthcare. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and music. During the summer, she will work in the de Boer lab to identify genomic regions for transgene integration in order to address transgene silencing. By combining high-throughput expression data with genetic and epigenetic datasets, they aim to build computational models to understand the determinants of transgene silencing. She will be responsible for library design, cloning and executing the high-throughput screen. Throughout this project, she aims to enhance her research and lab skills while contributing meaningfully to the research.