High School student contributes to genetic research to better understand radiation and cancer
Aug. 15, 2013
(Calgary, Alberta) August 15, 2013… “This has been an incredible summer,” says Ellen Been, a student of the 2013 Heritage Youth Researcher Summer (HYRS) program. “I’ve always loved science, but here I get to see how it all works in the real world.” Been is one of 22 Grade 11 students chosen to participate in the six‐week HYRS program, providing hands‐on health research experiences in laboratories and clinics at the University of Calgary.
Been is working in the laboratory of Aaron Goodarzi, PhD, the Canada Research Chair for Genome Damage and Instability Disease and an assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute. Goodarzi’s research focuses on radiation and its damaging effects, which can lead to cancer.
“What stood out for me most is the realization that research takes time” says Been, who is going into Grade 12 at William Aberhart High School in Calgary this September. “The amount of work that has to go into developing a research project and taking it through to the end is amazing.” Been’s project is to introduce mutated genes into human cells cultured in the laboratory and then measure their impact on DNA repair. Her project is funded by Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions (AIHS) and the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Radiation is everywhere in our environment, emitted by sources like radon gas, cosmic rays or radiation-based military, medical and energy technologies to impact human health. The radiation emitted by radon gas inhalation is particularly dangerous to humans, and is known to cause between 1,000-4,000 new cancer cases in Canada each year. Dr. Goodarzi hopes to better understand the cellular pathways that repair radiation-induced DNA damage, and in doing so, improve our knowledge of cancer formation, cancer prevention and radiation protection.
“I am definitely considering a career in research,” says Been. “But not just research alone – I’ve come to realize this summer that there is a collaboration with clinicians, and I think I’d like to serve as a clinician so that I could use my research in a meaningful way with my patients,” she says.
“The HYRS program opens up medical and health research to young Albertans and their teachers,” says Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions CEO and President, Cy Frank, PhD, MD. “By successfully mentoring young people like Ellen we accelerate their understanding of and exposure to research, and we help build the next generation of health leaders in our province.”
For information about Aaron Goodarzi’s work go to: http://www.sacri.ucalgary.ca/node/1533
Province‐wide, there are 49 students working this summer at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and University of Lethbridge. This year, the HYRS program received 195 applications from Grade 11 students in 83 schools across Alberta. An adjudication committee of high school teachers from St. Albert, Lethbridge, Edmonton and Calgary, and faculty members from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary selected 49 students. Fifteen of the HYRS students are from towns and rural communities across Alberta. The Alberta Cancer Foundation is funding six spots – two each at the U of A, the U of C and the U of L.
HYRS participants receive a stipend through Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions (AIHS) to work on research projects supervised and mentored by university researchers. HYRS programing includes hands-on research time in the lab, plus guest lectures, professional development sessions, and tours of research facilities. Participants produce a scientific poster which they share with their referring teachers, mentors, lab colleagues, and family at the HYRS Final Celebration and Poster Presentation held on the last day of the program on each campus.
Students who apply to HYRS are required to have at least an 85% average in core science subjects, two teacher references, a community reference, and write an essay about an aspect of health research that interests them and why they want to be part of the HYRS program.
In addition to the HYRS program, AIHS also offers other Education and Community Outreach programs, including a free week-long camp, called FYSci camp, to 40 high school students, and free teachers’ workshops. For more information on all AIHS outreach programs visit: http://www.aihealthsolutions.ca/rtna/eco.php
For more information about HYRS:
HYRS Provincial Coordinator