Student research showcase brings University of Toronto’s biomedical engineering community together
May 24, 2011
TORONTO, ON – The Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering’s (IBBME) annual Scientific Day took place on Thursday, May 19 in the Medical Sciences Building of the University of Toronto. It was attended by nearly three hundred students, faculty and staff. “It’s the most significant calendar event for the IBBME community,” said Professor Paul Santerre, Director of the Institute. “Our interdisciplinary approach may be necessary for advancing the frontier of the biomedical field, but it also means that our students and faculty are scattered from the St. George campus to as far afield as Sunnybrook Hospital. Scientific Day brings this vital community together to enable the exchange of ideas, conceive new approaches to our research questions, and get some much needed out-of-lab face time with our peers.”
The program included 86 poster presentations, thirteen oral presentations and two keynote addresses by world-renown researchers Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia (MIT) and Dr. Shaf Keshavjee (Director, Toronto Lung Transplant Program).
The Student Commons was packed with attendees, where the students presented their research in the poster session. “In this room, researchers are finding solutions to their investigative problems,” said Santerre. “Novel ideas are being sparked for the next project. This interchange defines the next era of health care. Listening to the buzz of discussion around the posters, you can hear the evolution of science right before us.”
For many junior students, Scientific Day is the first opportunity to present their research to a large audience; for senior students, it is a chance to perfect their presentation skills for the national and international conferences and seminars that are a part of a researcher’s life. IBBME recognizes student efforts with Scientific Day awards for poster and oral presentations. This year, the winners were:
Navid Samavati (Engineering in a Clinical Setting)
Samavati N, McGrath DM, Lee J, van der Kwast T, Ménard C, Brock KK. Correlative pathology of human prostate using an optimized biomechanical deformable registration.
Sascha Pinto (Nanotechnology, Molecular Imaging and Systems Biology)
Pinto S, Yasotharan S, Bolz SS, Guenther A. Microfludic platform to assess molecular transport across small blood vessels.
Sarah Power (Neural, Sensory Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering)
Power S, Kushki A, Chau T. Toward a system-packed NIRS-BCI: Differentiating prefrontal activity due to cognitive tasks from the no-control state.
Sidharth Chaudhry (Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering)
Chaudhry S, Majd H, Pietramaggiori G, Alman BA, Quinn TM, Hinz B. A novel culture system provides high yields of non-fibrogenic primary dermal fibroblasts for grafting applications.
Derek Voice (Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering: Honourable Mention)
Voice D, Khan OF, Sefton MV. A novel plug flow process for high throughput modular tissue engineering.
Lewis Reis (Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering: Honourable Mention)
Reis LA, Chiu LLY, Liang Y, Hyunh K, Radisic M. Development of a peptide modified chitosan-collagen hydrogel for the site-specific delivery of cardiomyocytes to the heart.
Alexandre Albanese (Lightning Round Presentation)
Albanese A, Chan WCW. The effect of gold nanoparticle aggregation on cell uptake and toxicity.
Jonathan Lovell (Full-length Presentation)
Lovell J, Jin C, Huynh E, Jin H, MacDonald TD, Kim C, Rubinstein JL, Chan WCW, Cao W, Wang L, Zheng G. Porphysome nanovesicles formed from porphyrin-phospholipid conjugates as theranostic cancer agents.
A highlight of the day was the Llewellyn-Thomas Visiting Professor talk by Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia (MIT). Bhathia’s talk, “Tiny Technologies and Medicine,” showcased her world-leading research in tissue engineering and nanomedicine, particularly in creating human microliver enviornoments. IBBME students noted Bhatia’s contributions to the field and the influence of her work on their own research. PhD candidate and Scientific Day co-chair Katherine Chiang noted that “Bhatia co-authored the first textbook I ever read on tissue engineering. It’s a big honour to have her here.” Kyle Battison, PhD candidate, recalled an undergraduate design project in which students chose a fantasy team of scientists to engineer a liver; Bhatia was at the top of his list.
Irwin Adam Eydelnant, a PhD candidate in Aaron Wheeler’s lab, says that Bhatia’s work in engineering devices and systems to interrogate cell-cell communication inspired his own work in digital microfluidics as tools for creating and controlling microenvironments, which he presented during the student session. “As Bhatia demonstrated in her talk, if we can manipulate the microenvironment, we have a level of control that makes it possible to ask questions we couldn’t ask before,” said Eydelnant. “My research is helping to advance those questions, and their answers.”
Bhatia stressed the role of collaboration in her work. “I definitely make use of the team science model,” she noted. “I can’t be at every forefront – so I seek out others pushing the boundaries of their fields.” One of those innovators was Warren Chan, who trained in Bhatia’s lab as a PhD student. Chan, now core IBBME faculty, conducts research on nanotechnology and molecular engineering.
“IBBME is a gem,” Bhatia said. “It’s on the cutting edge. There’s a ton of young energy here, and the faculty is uniquely nice. And in a collaborative field, where your partnerships become long-term, almost like marriages, great people are invaluable.”
Eydelnant agreed. “I definitely came to the right place,” he said of IBBME. “If I want to speak to a specialist in any field, I can access them right here at the University. I have every resource available to me. Working in the Donnelly Centre (for Cellular and Biomolecular Research) [where several IBBME faculty members have their laboratories] is particularly invaluable for collaboration. Because the lab spaces are shared, I’ve got stem cell biology on one side of me and biophysics on the other. And I’ve been doing work in both areas ever since.”
Dr. Shaf Keshavjee was the Innovation in Emerging Fields of Research Keynote Speaker. Dr. Keshavjee has been instrumental in making Toronto a world leader in lung transplant research. His talk, “Ex Vivo Repair and Regeneration of Organs for Transplantation,” detailed his work with the XVIVO lung perfusion technique, which has made possible advanced diagnostics, regenerative and gene therapies for lungs in preparation for transplant. Like Bhatia, Dr. Keshavjee stated that at the frontier of science, a interdisciplinary approach is necessary. “We need more engineers in our operating rooms,” he confirmed.
IBBME’s first Scientific Day was in April 1984. A student-led effort, this year’s event was enabled by over fifty students, faculty and staff support and co-chaired by PhD candidates Leo Chou (Warren Chen’s lab) and Katherine Chiang (Milica Radisic and Bill Stanford labs).