2023 SBME Synergy

Welcome to 2023’s Synergy Summer Studentship Program

You’ll find everything you need to know on this year’s events and participating cohort below.

Quick Links

Synergy Sessions
All participating students will attend workshops, presentations and networking events as part of the program. Attendance is mandatory.

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.

Program Expectations

During the program, students will work on a defined research project with a UBC supervisor, participate in professional development programming, and present their research at our Undergraduate Research Day.

You will benefit from research skill workshops, career development seminars, complementary social events and more, all while expanding your knowledge and experience in active research.

Please carefully review the schedule below. Make sure you lock these dates and times into your calendar so that you can guarantee your attendance. 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 11: Welcome Orientation

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 2023 Synergy schedule.

WHEN: 10am – 11am


Followed by an Ice Cream Social

Join your peers on the BRC rooftop patio after the orientation for ice cream!

WHEN: 11am – 12pm

WHERE: BRC Rooftop Patio

June 1: Lab Exploration

Learn about the labs that your peers are working in, and sign up for guided tours that will happen throughout the summer.

WHEN: 10am – 11am



Followed by a Student Social

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 – 12pm

WHERE: BRC 351 (or BRC Rooftop Patio, as weather permits)

July 13: Presentation Skills Workshop

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 – 12pm


FACILITATOR: Laura Stankiewicz

Followed by a Student Social

Join your peers for an Escape Room Social, round two! Team up to solve mysteries using our Escape Room board games.

WHEN: 12pm – 1pm

WHERE: BRC 351 (or BRC Rooftop Patio, as weather permits)

July 27: Career Exploration Panel

Meet and network with professionals in academia, healthcare, and industry, to learn about their career paths, and hear their advice on career development.



WHEN: 10am – 11am

Followed by an Ice Cream Social

Join your peers on the BRC rooftop patio after the career exploration panel for ice cream!

WHEN: 11am – 12pm

WHERE: BRC Rooftop Patio

August: Synergy Research Day

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

WHEN: 9am – 12pm

WHERE: Life Sciences Atrium & CBH Room 101

Meet Your Synergy 2023 Cohort



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Jennifer Mitchell

Jennifer Mitchell is a 5th year Biology undergraduate student at UBC. She currently works as a Co-op student in Dr. Sheila Teves’ lab, contributing to a variety of projects, including establishing a working protocol for the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into neural progenitor cells, and a completed project regarding transcription factor mitotic bookmarking. Her research interests include the research of cellular identity, epigenetics, as well as immunogenetics. In her spare time, Jennifer also enjoys travelling, making pottery, and watching numerous movies to add to her Letterboxd profile. Under the supervision of Dr. Teves, Jennifer will continue to work on her independent research project investigating the dynamics of distal cis regulatory enhancer regions using dCas9 to activate a GFP reporter system. Jennifer is very excited to be joining this year’s cohort of SBME Synergy students, and looks forward to a fun Summer program!

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Margaret Javier

Margaret is a fourth-year Honours Cell and Developmental Biology student at UBC. She recently completed a Co-op placement at the Vancouver Prostate Centre where she led and assisted in various studies investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying nucleolar protein regulation and its implications on prostate cancer development and progression. Margaret is grateful for the opportunity to now explore the field of regenerative medicine as she starts her work under the supervision of Dr. Christopher Laver. This summer, she will be conducting research to develop cell-based therapeutics for the treatment of retinal degenerative diseases and trauma. With a keen interest in translational medicine research, Margaret is excited to join and learn from the SBME academic community!

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Chaehyeon Lee

Chaehyeon Lee is a third year Biomedical Engineering undergraduate at UBC, specializing in cellular bioengineering. Her research interests include the integration of bioinformatics analysis and cellular engineering to advance medicine and healthcare. Her previous research experience includes working as a research assistant at the UBC Behavioural Reward Affect + Impulsivity Neuroscience (B.R.A.I.N.) Lab, where she developed scripts to collect and process EEG data from participants. She is also currently involved in UBC’s synthetic biology design team (UBC iGEM) as the dry lab lead, coordinating multiple projects to provide computational insight for the project. This summer, Chaehyeon will be working under the supervision of Dr. Nozomu Yachie to develop quality control metrics for cell lineage trees reconstructed through high-throughput single cell RNA sequencing. She is looking forward to gaining hands-on experience in working with cell lineage tree reconstruction pipelines and learning how to critically analyze cutting-edge cell lineage tracing technologies.

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Joshua Lowery

Joshua Lowery is an incoming third-year Bachelor of Kinesiology student specializing in neuromechanical and physiological sciences. He has found interest in the research area of biomechanics and will continue to develop this passion throughout the summer while working on multiple projects with the Fewster Spine Lab. Under the supervision of Dr. Kayla Fewster, his main project will aim to quantify in-vitro cervical facet joint capsule strain as a percentage of ultimate shear failure force across different loading rates. With the help of the SBME Synergy Studentship, Joshua plans on developing his knowledge of all aspects of biomechanical research, including motion capture software such as Visual 3D, highspeed strain mapping, and different tissue dissection techniques.

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Jillian Feliciano

Jillian Feliciano is a second-year Integrated Sciences student at UBC. Although she is from Toronto, she was born in the Philippines; this has played a big part in fostering her passion for equitable health in vulnerable populations and community engagement. She is very interested in learning about the complex interactions that play a role in cell regeneration. This summer, she will be working in the Rossi Lab at UBC’s Biomedical Research Centre. Under the supervision of Dr. Marine Theret, she will explore cell processes during skeletal muscle regeneration, primarily focusing on the role of the TGFb signaling pathway in the differentiation of fibro/adipogenic progenitors into matrix-producing cells. She is very excited about the applications of this study and is looking forward to a great summer at the Rossi Lab!

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Matin Narimani

Matin Narimani is a second-year biomedical engineering student with a passion for improving human performance and well-being through the integration of technology. He is particularly interested in the application of technology to the fields of biomechanics, cellular and genetic engineering, and neuroscience. Currently, he is working under the supervision of Dr. Manu Madhav in the Neural Circuits for Computation, Cognition, and Control (NC4) lab on a reconfigurable maze designed to investigate the neuronal activity of rodents performing spatial navigation tasks. His work involves creating a rodent deterrence system for training, developing a robot arm feeding system, and fabricating the tetrode drive which will be implanted in the rats. Outside of his academic pursuits, Matin enjoys playing basketball, watching movies, and playing the guitar. He is excited to explore new research avenues and discover his passion for scientific inquiry as he continues his work in the NC4 lab.

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Eric Song

Eric Song is a biomedical engineering student at the University of British Columbia. He just recently finished his second year and plans to focus his study on Biomechanics. He is passionate about the human anatomy, and researching injuries on how they occur, and how they can be treated. Currently, he is working with Dr. David Wilson in the Centre for Aging Smart as a Research assistant where they are currently working on how cartilage behaves when subject to different loads. Eric’s passion for sports has led him to pursue this opportunity. From this opportunity, Eric will gain many practical skills ranging from 3D modeling and segmentation, to harvesting and load testing specimens.

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Joyce Xi

Joyce Xi is a second-year Biomedical Engineering student planning to specialize in Molecular and Cellular Engineering. As a volunteer in Dr. Elizabeth Rideout’s lab, she has been conducting statistical analyses of brain lipids in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). Joyce is passionate about Women’s Health and the development of sex-specific treatments in medicine. In her previous projects, she developed a CT scan processing pipeline to determine male-female differences in bone density. This summer, she will continue working in the Rideout Lab to further investigate sex-linked differences in metabolism and fat storage. Her Synergy project aims to evaluate healthy aging of male and female Drosophila through controlled ablation of insulin-producing cells. A native Vancouverite, Joyce is an avid explorer of Pacific Spirit Regional Park and enjoys taking long walks by the beach. In her spare time, you can also find her playing video games or cooking up traditional Chinese dishes.

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Graeme McIntosh

Graeme McIntosh is a fourth year Bachelor of Science student at UBC in the Cellular and Physiological Science Program who was born and raised in Richmond, BC. He is passionate about research with clinical applications to gain deeper understanding of diseases effecting society, and looks forward to gaining further experience in this field of study this summer. Currently, he is a research assistant in the Allan Laboratory working on the SFARI project which strives to develop assays to understand the clinical interpretation of Autism gene variants using Drosophila as a model system. This summer under supervision from Dr. Allan, Graeme will be analyzing gene variants of the gene PTPN11 and TCF4. In his free time, Graeme enjoys playing tennis for the UBC Tennis Team, golfing, camping and having fun with friends.

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Aileen Liman

Aileen Liman is a third-year student in the UBC-BCIT Biotechnology program. She enjoys applying her passion for cell biology and immunology to investigating human diseases, particularly cancer. In her free time, she enjoys reading, drawing, and rock climbing. As a co-op student in the Roskelley lab, she will help create CRISPR knockouts in mouse tumour cell lines to help evaluate the efficacy of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) in treating breast and ovarian cancer. This summer, she hopes to explore her research interests and strengthen her tissue culture, molecular biology, and lab animal handling skills.

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Jake Pringle

Jake Pringle is a fourth-year Dean’s Honour List Bioengineering student at McGill University. Although Jake was born in London, England, he now calls West Vancouver home and enjoys all outdoor activities, from skiing to paddle boarding. From a professional perspective, Jake is fascinated by the use of mathematical modelling to simulate cellular interactions. As such, Jake is working in the Quantitative Biomedicine Lab under Dr. Kaigala to model and test the use of open microfluidics for chemical gradient generation. Additionally, Jake has recently had his interests piqued in synthetic biology, winning McGill’s Sustainability in Synthetic Biology Conference with a design of baker’s yeast able to carbon source from polyethylene. In his time at UBC, Jake hopes to complement his extensive industry internship experiences with research skills, with the aim of graduating next year well-rounded in all of the steps behind a product’s research and development to market entry.

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Sofia Colmenares

Sofia Colmenares is a 3rd-year Food Science student at UBC. After growing up in Colombia, she obtained an associate’s degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Inspired by her experience as the Latin American Cultural Exchange Fellow at the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, she arrived to Vancouver in 2020 to advance her studies. Since September 2022, Sofia has been engaged as a WorkLearn Project Assistant at the Foster Laboratory, where she is exploring the fascinating world of mass spectrometry and its application to analyze metabolites in honey. With her mentors, Dr. Leonard Foster and Dr. Armando Alcazar Magana, Sofia is working towards developing a mass spectrometry database of honey composition. This will establish a comprehensive and reliable resource for data on honey’s chemical composition, helping us understand the complex flavor and nutritional properties of this delicious natural sweetener.

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Sabine Lim

Sabine is in her third year of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Victoria. She grew up in Vancouver, BC and enjoys good food, traveling and playing piano. She is interested in research and design in the medical field and using technology to improve healthcare. She will be working on her Synergy project with Dr. Peter Cripton this summer in his ICORD lab. She will be developing and testing an omnidirectional surrogate neck for research in head trauma and SCI. By simulating and testing this surrogate neck upon impact, they will gain insight into the biomechanics of the human neck during different types of accidents, aswell as how to best prevent them. Some of her applicable technical skills include stress testing, design and 3D printing. She hopes to improve her research and design skills throughout this project, as well as gain valuable project work experience and technical skills while contributing to meaningful SCI research.

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Nikolay Alabi

Nikolay Alabi (he/him/his) is a first year medical student at UBC who was raised in Calgary, AB and completed his undergraduate degree at Queen’s University. He is passionate about the use of technology and AI to improve health and well-being. His past personal projects include developing a machine learning algorithm to differentiate between esohageal-like and gastric-like cancer at the gastroesophageal junction using molecular methylation data. In his free time he enjoys playing basketball and skateboarding. Under the supervision of Dr. Ali Bashashati, he will develop machine learning models to analyze ovarian cancer histological slide images in order to improve classification and diagnosis.

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Maria Stephenson

Maria Stephenson is a fifth year computer science student, minoring in microbiology and immunology. She is interested in pursuing translational bioinformatics – a field of research in which computational tools are developed and applied to patient data, with the goal of identifying new avenues for treatment and improving disease outcomes. Her past research experiences range from developing a visualization tool for RNA expression in single cells, to characterizing the epigenomes and transcriptomes of acute myeloid leukemias. Currently she is working in the Karsan lab at the Genome Sciences Centre, where she is investigating how the epigenome affects response to azacitidine treatment in myelodysplastic syndromes. She is excited to learn more about myelodysplastic syndromes, and gain experience working with different types of sequencing data.

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Omar Husain Syed

Omar Husain is a third-year Applied Biology student. He is fond of learning about immunology and understanding how the immune system responds to different groups of pathogens. Currently, he is an undergraduate research student at the School of Biomedical Engineering investigating the immune regulation of muscle repair; his primary focus will be the analysis of skeletal muscle regeneration in STAT6-deficient mice in the context of both chronic and acute muscle injury. Omar is quite grateful for this unique opportunity and will be conducting his research at the Kelly McNagny lab under the leadership of Dr. Melina Messing. Outside of research work, Omar is also an International Undergraduate Student Scholar and the Vice-President of the UBC Food Science Club. With the SBME Synergy program, Omar hopes to identify how the absence of a functional type-2 immune response might change the overall pathogenesis of DMD which would lead to the discovery of novel therapeutic targets.

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Maiara Burgess

Maiara Burgess is a second-year Biology undergraduate student at UBC, specializing in cell and developmental biology. In her free time, she enjoys playing the guitar, Latin dancing, and hiking. She is particularly interested in how changes in the brain circuits are related to neurodevelopmental disorders. Currently, Maiara is working as a research assistant in the Haas Lab at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. During the summer, she will mainly be investigating the impact of mutations associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder on neuronal growth and excitability. She plans to use the program Dynamo to image and measure the growth behavior of neurons. Maiara is excited to continue working in the Haas Lab, where she will gain valuable skills such as programming 3D models of tectum neurons and imagining neuron growth.

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Keheng Wang

Keheng (Tina) Wang is a third-year Microbiology and Immunology student at UBC. Throughout her learning in the degree, she developed a great interest in human immunology and developmental biology, specifically in the area of hematopoiesis and stem cell self-renewal. This summer, she will work closely with Dr. Margarita MacAldaz at Connie Eaves Lab, aiming to identify the immunophenotypes that stably characterize human fetal liver hematopoietic stem cells with retained regenerative capability in various culture conditions. Through this experience, she hopes to deepen her knowledge of human stem cell biology and gain proficiency in a diverse range of wet lab techniques, gaining a solid foundation for future research. Outside of school, Tina loves painting and music. She also enjoys cooking and is a big fan of bubble tea.

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Ghazal Fallahpour

Ghazal Fallahpour is entering her third year of Biomedical Engineering at UBC. She was born in Iran and raised for in Vancouver, BC. Her interests lay in developing software for medical diagnostic and treatment devices. Over the summer she will be working at the Shadgan lab in ICORD, developing a high-performance signal processing software, as well as visualization tools for displaying signal data and analysis results for a NIRS device. She is currently apart of a project in the Rideout Lab, analyzing experimental lipidomic data of drosophila. Outside of academics you can find her working as a Personal Trainer at UBC Recreation or searching for the best restaurants in the city.

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Steve Wang

Steve is a third year student in Biochemistry from Faculty of Science. This summer, he will be woking in Dr. Eric Jan’s lab as an undergraduate research assistant to develop new strategies on improving synthetic circular RNA (circRNA) production and identify RNA elements that could enhance their therapeutic protein expression. In particular, he will be evaluating the viability of a novel circRNA synthesis approach and creating an algorithm to annotate functional RNA elements from recent metagenomic analysis. Due to its extraordinary intracellular stability, Steve is really interested in the therapeutic potential of circRNA. However, challenges including complicated manufacturing process and limited translation efficiency greatly restricted its therapeutic applications to this date. Therefore, from this experience, Steve is hoping to address these challenges by streamlining the production of circRNA and improving its design. In his free time, Steve enjoys watching movies and reading novels. His favorite protein is glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase.

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Qide Ma

Qide Ma is a Manufacturing Engineering student, focusing on mechanical and manufacturing aspects of engineering. He believes this knowledge is critical to other research-based engineering fields, as it facilitates the design and production of related hardware and software necessary to support research activities. In a previous project, He developed a digital dispenser cap that monitored residual silicon volume in non-transparent dispensers. This design integrated hardware and software components, featuring a laser sensor and display for station operators in a factory manufacturing environment. During the Synergy studentship program this summer, Qide will work alongside Dr. Jane Hill. He will be involved in technical activities and tests aimed at integrating sensor modules into the multi-channel universal breath cartridge (UBC) of the lab’s beta sampler prototype for respiratory disease and breath biomarker analysis. He hopes to gain a better understanding of applying engineering design in the biomedical field and to build connections with program participants.

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Bjorn Holst

Björn Holst is a second-year Computer Science student currently pursuing his degree at UBC. He was born in Vancouver, Canada, and grew up in Saudi Arabia, where he developed an interest in science and technology during his time interning at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). His current research interests revolve around applying machine learning and data visualization to STEM, with a focus on genetics, human movement, and robotics. His prior experience in the area has involved applying reinforcement learning in Unity ML-Agents and visualizing epigenomic data with Pandas and Tidyverse. He is currently working under Dr. Carl de Boer and Abdul Muntakim Rafi to refine existing cis-regulatory ML models, with the aim of improving their ability to predict gene expression from DNA regulatory sequences. Outside of academics, Björn loves volleyball, playing chess, and poetry.

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Jason Yuan

Jason Yuan is a second-year biomedical engineering student at UBC who was born and raised in Vancouver, BC. In his spare time, he enjoys playing soccer, ultimate frisbee, and listening to music. From his love for sports, he has developed an interest in sports biomechanics and improving athletes’ health and well-being using technology. This summer, he will be working as a research assistant in the Human Motion Biomechanics Lab (HuMBL). Under the supervision of Dr. Calvin Kuo, he will be performing video analysis of UBC soccer athletes who are instrumented with wearable sensors. This will be used to develop machine learning algorithms to predict the risks of lower limb injury. Jason hopes to learn more about wearable sensor assembly, as well as kinematics measurements and their relevance to the biomechanics of movement.

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George Xu

George Xu is a fifth year Applied Science student majoring in Engineering Physics. He is interested in using technology such as machine learning in medical applications. Currently he is working with Dr. Roger Tam and Dr. Rachel Eddy to predict hyperpolarized xenon-129 gas MRI images from CT scans in the lungs. Through this experience he hopes to hone his skills and accumulate knowledge in the biomedical field in preparation for graduate studies or future work.

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Aditya Swaro

Aditya Swaro is a second-year neuroscience student who was raised in Calgary, AB. He is passionate about developing computational neuroscience tools and using AI to improve the healthcare workflow. His prior research involved exploring the use of point-of-care ultrasound techniques to pre-screen for brain disease, aiming to address the issue of prolonged MRI wait times. For his Synergy project, he is working in Dr. Mark Cembrowski’s Lab, where he will develop computational tools for interpreting traumatic brain injury spatial transcriptomics data, and develop a web portal to host these data and tools. In his free time, Aditya enjoys playing soccer and making terrariums.

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Bhavya Sabbineni

Bhavya Sabbineni is a third-year Biomedical Engineering student at the University of British Columbia. She is interested in applying synthetic biology and genetic engineering to address real-world problems and improve lives. She has a keen interest in combining molecular biology and technology and actively participates in UBC iGEM, a student-led research team, to pursue her passion. At the James Johnson Lab, she is investigating the transcriptional factors and molecular mechanisms that contribute to the dynamic nature of the Ins2 gene in pancreatic beta cells. Her research involves high-content imaging, screening, and insulin secretion assays to assess beta-cell subpopulations. Understanding the functional differences in beta cell subpopulations is relevant to the field of islet homeostasis and beta-cell biology, which in turn is important for understanding the pathobiology of diabetes. Outside of work, Bhavya indulges in reading, outdoor activities, and science communication.

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Ali Zaidi

Ali is a 4th year Microbiology & Immunology student at UBC. He is passionate about exploring the transformative potential of non-invasive techniques, including advanced imaging and biomarkers, to optimize patient care and improve outcomes. This summer, Ali will be working under the supervision of Dr. Jonathan Loree at BC Cancer to evaluate the effectiveness of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) as a predictive tool for assessing treatment response in neuroendocrine tumour patients undergoing Peptide Receptor Radioligand Therapy (PRRT). Ali is also part of the UBC Biomedical Engineering Student Team where he is investigating the impact of naturally-derived polyphenols on pancreatic beta-cell apoptosis and insulin secretion. He looks forward to an exciting summer program and gaining valuable experience in cancer research.

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Katrina Jewell

Katrina is a third-year biomedical engineering student passionate about applying engineering principles to better understand and manipulate biological systems and improve the lives of others. Her current research with the Biomedical Engineering Student Team investigates the potential of cinnamon polyphenols as a novel treatment for insulin resistance and diabetes. Through the Synergy program with the Zandstra Stem Cell Bioengineering laboratory, Katrina will be continuing to develop a molecular reporting system to track expression of key transcription factors during in vitro T cell differentiation. These sensors will be used to drive the expression of transgenes to enhance T cell differentiation, which has the potential to massively lower the cost of and thereby increase accessibility to T cell therapy.

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Hanna Khan

Hanna Khan is a third-year biomedical engineering student at UBC, with a specialization in biomedical informatics. She is passionate about the use of mathematical tools to solve problems in medicine. This broadens her research interests to fields of engineering, computer science and artificial intelligence to advance medical industry solutions. This summer Hanna will be working under Professor Ilker Hacihaliloglu to explore de-identification, a process of removing identifying features of an individual’s clinical data for medical imaging AI development. In partnership with Synthesis Health, her goal is to understand which features are most relevant and can be kept, without re-identification. The outcome of this research will aid the development of new approaches and regulatory guidelines for current de-identification methods of medical imaging data. Outside school, Hanna is co-captain of Multiple Sclerosis to Movement (M2M), a sub-team on UBC Biomedical Engineering Student Team (BEST). In her free time, she enjoys badminton, playing the viola and jogging.