Sept. 4, 2020

Symposium highlights undergraduate summer research

More than 200 students, professors, and trainees gather online to celebrate undergraduate research discoveries

In earlier years, Anjola Adeboye would have been sharing her summer experience in-person. This summer, students adapted, and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI), Owerko Centre and Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) joined forces to create an online version of the 2020 Summer Student Symposium.

The annual showcase event features undergraduates presenting their research to each other and the broader university community. During the virtual event on Aug. 28, more than 130 undergraduates from seven UCalgary faculties, in all years of study and stages of research, presented on topics from exercise and chronic pain, to brain inflammation.

Throughout the summer, ACHRI STEP, the Owerko Centre and the HBI Trainee Organization (HBITO) offered summer students several skill-building workshops including how to prepare for presenting their research. 

“This summer has been a rather atypical but heuristic and deeply fulfilling process,” says Adeboye, a second year Bachelor of Health Sciences student at the Cumming School of Medicine.

I was ecstatic to present my research on the reliability of Google Street View for virtual audits at intersections due to the possibilities of using this technology in future epidemiological research.

“My study compares existing in-person audits of child bicyclist routes with virtual audits of 75 sites in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. Of those sites, 13 were intersections.” Adeboye says, “Virtual auditing proves to be a promising tool in evaluating the physical makeup of where we live, learn and work.”

Overall, Adeboye says presenting virtually at the symposium was a blast and it was an honour to present alongside her talented peers. “My entire summer student experience gave me a newfound appreciation for the scientific community and the scientific process.”

Students and trainees from the HBITO were instrumental in planning the symposium, organizing the presentations, and hosting the all-day celebration.

Dr. William Ghali, PhD, vice-president (research) kicked off the event. “By gathering online during the symposium, summer students are building the scholarly community,” he says. “This event is the next step in their research career — and I’m proud to say that leading researchers are in our midst.”

Ghali reflected on his time as a summer student in gastrointestinal research and was amazed at the flexibility of the summer students.

They have been more creative and innovative than ever this summer. The ingenuity students have learned during COVID will serve them well throughout their careers.

The symposium featured keynote speaker Dr. Pierre Wijdenes, PhD, BMEN’17, postdoc in the Syed lab, and CEO at Neuraura, a company that uses fully implantable medical devices to improve the lives of those with neurological, psychiatric and sensory conditions. Neuraura began as collaboration with the University of Calgary between the HBI at the Cumming School of Medicine and the Schulich School of Engineering.

“Students should follow their gut and be mindful of their environment,” says Wijdenes. ”The whole world can be their playground. Get out and explore. Even if you fail, you fail forward.

"Sometimes we forget to ask students what they really want to do and where they want to end up. The answers to these questions are the best ways to support their futures and happiness."

In previous years, the ACHRI and HBITO have had their own symposiums celebrating summer student research. This is the first year that the ACHRI and HBI have teamed up with the Owerko Centre to bring more students together and share knowledge.