Kylie Slogan and Alex Agostinis, 2nd-year students studying in Dr. Yufeng Tong’s protein biochemistry lab at the University of Windsor, were selected as one of the top 40 teams out of over 200 participating teams from across North America to present at the IgNITE Medical Case Competition. This is the first time that a UWindsor undergraduate team participated in this competition and made it into the final round.
Annually, students are invited to submit their proposals beginning with an abstract and elevator pitch video. Kylie and Alex were successful in progressing to the final round and prepared a poster presentation video of their novel research proposal to experts in the field. They were both drawn to seeing how eyes from the chemistry and biological fields offer different interpretations.
Cardio Respiratory Diseases was the theme for this year and the team began to read recent articles and studies related to the topic. They decided to focus on Allergic Asthma (the most common type of asthma) as the current treatment options, bronchodilators or corticosteroids, are not satisfactory. The former lead to scar tissue buildup, and the latter have concerning side effects.
The immune system is critical in the study of asthma. Their experience in the lab with ubiquitin (a regulatory protein) led them to focus on two types of T cells regulated by ubiquitin in their project: the T helper cells that elicit an immune response, and T regulatory cells that dial back the immune response.
“We left with a million more questions that we can’t wait to answer,” shared Alex. They learned how to construct a proposal, write an abstract and be clear on how relevant their proposed research is, stepping stones to carrying out cutting-edge research and writing their own grant applications in the future.
Alex was a mixed martial arts fighter who suffered nerve damage. Bedridden, he read scientific literature looking for his options, which were limited. A paper of Dr. Tong’s caught his eye, and he became drawn to the field of research. Later, he attended Meet the Professors Night through a program called, “Outstanding Scholars” with the intention of meeting Dr. Tong and is now studying in his lab.
Kylie’s interest in this field of study came about for an entirely different reason. A co-worker who volunteered in Dr. Tong’s lab and finally accomplished a thesis project with Dr. Tong ignited her interest in a research career.
“I take great pride in Kylie and Alex’s work in my lab and their efforts to participate in the competition. This competition is an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to learn and understand how research ideas are formulated and how experiments are designed and implemented. Science serves as the driving force behind all the technological advancement in the world, and I hope to see an increasing number of UWindsor students express their interest in pursuing highly rewarding scientific careers,” Dr. Tong remarked with enthusiasm.
IgNITE is a Federal Non-Profit Organization in Canada that provides this opportunity annually to aspiring young scientists interested in pursuing a scientific career in life science and medicine. As stated in their mission, “We provide a platform for you to network and build connections with like-minded students and professionals in your field of interest.”
“I’m very glad we participated in this competition,” Kylie shares, “I learned a lot. I would encourage any students that are interested to compete next year!”
Their abstract will soon be published in the Undergraduate Research in Natural and Clinical Science and Technology (URNCST) with the 40 other teams that presented at the conference. Their poster presentation video is listed on IgNITE website and hosted on YouTube.
For more information visit the link in the article or:
Young scientists | IgNITE Medical Case Competition (ignitecompetition.org)
Article by Lynn McLaughlin, MEd, BEd, BA