Students in Scholar's Electives conduct independent research projects with the mentorship of faculty members in years 2 and 3 of the program. This is great opportunity for students to explore their interests deeply, test their interest in research and/or lab work, and broaden the scope of their undergraduate learning experiences.
Students take the lead in the development and execution of these projects - they are not simply research or lab assistants: they are in the driver’s seat. Additionally, students can conduct research outside their primary faculty of enrollment. For example, Medical Sciences students can explore areas of the Humanities, and vice versa! This is an exciting opportunity offered exclusively to students in the Scholar's Electives program.
Faculty of Sciences
Though the Scholar's Electives program I worked on 2 projects. In my second year, I worked in the Immunology department. I helped create a technique to track the multiple sclerosis activation state. I learned lab techniques, and how to present my work to people outside my field. In my third year, I worked on a very different project in the Health Studies department. I looked at osteoarthritis management in rural areas. I learned how to conduct interviews in the community, and how to analyze qualitative data. I presented this project at a local conference, and co-authored a recently submitted paper. While working on these projects I received constant support and guidance from my lab members and supervisors. These projects allowed me to explore my interests and understand my strengths and weaknesses.
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Women Studies and Feminist Research
My research engages with transgender theory, a subject that is seldom offered in universities and thus something that I am able to do this level of work on only through Scholar’s Electives. Last year my thesis work centred on the use of gender neutral language by transgender people in different linguistic/grammatical systems, and whether or not the differing restrictions (e.g. gender agreement in nouns) in English, French, German, and Swedish affected the lived experiences of transgender people who choose to use neutral language in reference to themselves. This research was extremely enlightening not only as a primary study, but also as an opportunity to theorize about paths towards inclusive language in different social contexts. This year, I am exploring the shifts in transgender communities affected by non-binary identities, and whether embodied transition or movement away from an initially defined gender position remains a prerequisite for transgender experience and identity.
Faculty of Social Science
The Scholar's Elective program has granted me the opportunity to learn about an array of health geographies under the guidance of specialists in the fields of Indigenous health and Maternal health in Sub-Saharan Africa. At present, I am investigating the latter. Specifically, the role pregnancy intention plays in numerous maternal health behaviors such as consistent insecticide-treated bed net use and timely initiation of antenatal care. My aim is to understand the areas of overlap in family planning and more traditional forms of care in improving maternal and new-born health outcomes.
Faculty of Health Sciences
I am currently researching a grassroots health promotion initiative that utilizes random acts of kindness - The Butterfly Effect: A legacy through kindness. I am researching how random acts of kindness impact health and wellbeing in higher educational settings. Beyond the qualitative and quantitative research and data I am conducting, I am also working to expand the project and its implementation. The project has reached individuals around the world, and The Ontario Ministry of Health and Longterm care has recently taken note of the research and it is being expanded for use in palliative health care settings.
Faculty of Science
My research focus was on neurogenesis; understanding the migrational properties of neurons during development and differentiation into astrocytes or mature neurons. Using genetically modified mice, we evaluated how neurogenesis translates to spatial reasoning with behavioural testing. Mice were tested for the spatial reasoning abilities using a touch screen system where they were required to identify light patterns in order to receive an award. We then imaged the brain using immunofluorescence to identify neuronal migration patterns. These findings may provide more information into the impaired abilities of patients with Alzheimers disease.
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Thanks to Scholar's Electives, I had the chance to study political leadership and apply the concepts I learned to research the leadership of Canadian prime ministers. Through this research, I familiarized myself with theories of leadership (both ancient and modern), I examined good and bad leadership, read various biographies and looked into the field of followership. Ultimately, I used my research to perform in-depth case and determine that elitism is a key factor in becoming a prime minister.
Faculty of Health Sciences, Kinesiology
My research focus was to quantify the necessity of long duration training sessions for maximal aerobic adaptations by the examination of acute responses of energy system contributions, lactate thresholds, and regional blood flow distribution to maximal performance. These values were compared through an incremental test to fatigue and a critical power (CP) test; both performed before and after a 5-hour outdoor cycle. Currently, I am investigating the biomechanics aspect of exercise with an interest in researching the advancements of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction over the past 50 years and the impact this will have on the frequency of high tibial osteotomy (HTO) and/or total knee joint replacement surgeries in the general population.
Faculty of Sciences, Pathology
My research focuses on the epigenetics of diabetic complications. In hyperglycaemic conditions, endothelial cells that line the innermost layer of blood vessels undergo dysfunctional changes. These vascular changes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, and cerebrovascular disease. My project focuses on determining how the long non-coding RNA H19 can facilitate endothelial cell damage through a process called endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT). My experiments involve working with human retinal and umbilical vein endothelial cells to detect mRNA expression of EndMT markers in response to H19 changes and high glucose conditions. These findings may provide the groundwork for RNA-based therapies that can ameliorate diabetic vascular complications.Through the Scholar’s Electives program, I have had to opportunity to pursue exciting topics that pique my interest, explore the mechanisms behind human disease in more detail, navigate scientific literature, and gain valuable skills in writing and presenting my research.