Outstanding Achievement Awards winners

BC Children's Hospital Research Institute is pleased to congratulate the recipients of the 2018 Outstanding Achievement Awards and the 2018 BCCHR Studentships and Fellowships. 

Outstanding Achievement Awards

The Outstanding Achievement Awards recognize trainee achievements in research aimed at improving the health and well-being of children and families. This year's recipients are:

Outstanding Achievement by an Undergraduate or Medical Student
Jacob Stubbs, Panenka Research Team

This award recognizes the outstanding achievement of an undergraduate or medical student whose research curiosity and engagement clearly demonstrate the individual’s potential as a valuable member of the scientific community. As part of the Panenka research team, Jacob has been heavily involved in research on visual perception, neuro-ophthalmology and neuropsychiatry. He has distinguished himself both as a highly competent researcher and a talented scientific communicator during his undergraduate studies. 

Outstanding Achievement by a Master's Student
Natasha Orr, Yong Research Team

This award recognizes the outstanding achievement of a Master's student whose research skills and analytical capacity clearly demonstrate the individual's potential as a productive member of the scientific community. Orr has proven herself an early career scientist of outstanding promise during her Master’s studies, earning top marks on her thesis on the role of the bladder/ pelvic floor in endometriosis-associated pain, co-authoring several papers and supporting and mentoring other students as they begin their scientific careers. 

Outstanding Achievement by a Doctoral Student
Dr. Helen Chen, Maxwell Research Team

This award recognizes the outstanding achievement of a Doctoral student whose demonstrated originality, research ability and a capacity for critical thinking identify the individual as being likely to become a contributing member in the scientific community. Dr. Chen is known as a gifted researcher, with a unique ability to integrate, synthesize and transfer knowledge. During her Doctoral studies, she has completed research that resulted in three first author publications, made significant contributions to the functioning of the Maxwell lab and served as a leader and mentor. She’s continuing to investigate the molecular processes involved in cancer as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Outstanding Achievement by a Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Mohamed Elgendi, K. Lim Research Team

This award recognizes the outstanding achievement of a Postdoctoral Fellow whose high academic achievements, personal leadership qualities and demonstrated research ability show promise of the individual becoming a future leader in health research. Dr. Elgendi has demonstrated exceptional work as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Lim lab, where he works to develop better ways to screen for preeclampsia using non-invasive methods. He has published 43 journal articles, 4 book chapters, 21 peer refereed conference papers, 4 book chapters and one book (to appear soon), received prestigious grants and awards from BCCHR and CIHR, and delivered around 30 lectures as an invited speaker. 

Outstanding Achievement by a Resident
Dr. Brandon Chalazan, Armstrong Research Team

This award recognizes the outstanding achievement of a Resident whose scholarly activity, industry and commitment to the research endeavour are an example to other trainees and who has contributed to advances in child, youth or women's health. During his residency, Dr. Chalazan published a first author paper in PLoS One, supporting a genetic basis for atrial fibrillation in a Hispanic / Latino population and received a prestigious early career Principal Investigator award from the American Heart Association to support this important work. He has presented his research at some of the largest cardiovascular genetic conferences and looks forward to continuing to push boundaries in the genetics field and carving out an area of expertise in fetal, children and adult patients that suffer from profound genetic cardiac anomalies.

BCCHR Studentships and Fellowships

These awards give exceptional trainees the opportunity to pursue leading-edge child health research projects under the supervision of BC Children's Hospital Investigators. BCCHR Studentships and Fellowships are made possible through the support of BC Children's Hospital Foundation. 

Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
Dr. Ali Farrokhi, Reid Research Team

Dr. Ali Farrokhi will work in Dr. Gregor Reid’s lab to investigate the role of immune responses in the development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), one of the most common forms of childhood cancer. The ultimate goal of Dr. Farrokhi’s research is to identify ways to stimulate the immune system to kill leukemia cells, which could help cure children who don’t respond completely to existing treatments.

Bertram Hoffmeister Postdoctoral Fellowship 
Dr. Catrina Loucks, Rassekh & Carleton Research Teams

Working with Drs. Rod Rassekh and Bruce Carleton, Dr. Loucks will search for genetic variations that make children more likely to develop mucositis from cancer treatment. Mucositis is a painful inflammation of the linings of eyes, ears, mouth and other parts of the body. Developing a genetic test for susceptibility to mucositis would allow doctors to work with families to develop a treatment plan for cancer that balances the life-saving power of drugs against the risk of harmful side effects.|

Mining for Miracles Postdoctoral Fellowship
Dr. Anuli Uzozie, Lange Research Team

As part of Dr. Philipp Lange’s lab, Dr. Anuli Uzozie will develop new approaches to using modified proteins as targets for cancer therapies. Many drugs work by acting on proteins, but because proteins are such a basic and ubiquitous part of the human body, these drugs are imprecise and can have dangerous side effects. Proteins in cancer cells are modified in particular patterns. By studying how proteins are modified in cells affected by acute myeloid leukemia, Dr. Uzozie is uncovering targets for more precise therapies, which would attack cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.

Healthy Starts Graduate Studentship
Faten Abdel-Hafez Ahmed, Leung Research Team

As a member of Dr. Peter Leung’s lab, Ahmed will study the role the growth factor myostatin plays in placental invasion, the process by which the placenta grows in the wall of the uterus during pregnancy. If the placenta does not attach and grow properly, a number of serious pregnancy complications that threaten the lives of both mother and baby can result. Ahmed’s research could ultimately contribute to new therapies that treat pregnancy loss, preterm labour and pre-eclampsia.

Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Foundation Graduate Studentship
​​​​​​Enes Kemal Ergin, Lange Research Team

In Dr. Philipp Lange’s lab, Enes Kemal Ergin will use machine learning algorithms to improve the classification of cancerous tumors. Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence in which an algorithm can improve itself through repeatedly modelling and classifying data. Ergin will apply this leading-edge approach to mass spectrometry, a technique for analyzing substances on a molecular level. Developing better methods for classifying tumors is key to improving treatments for solid tumors, which lead to significant percentage of childhood cancer fatalities.

Canucks for Kids Graduate Studentship
Alex Kadhim, Taubert Research Team

In Dr. Stefan Taubert’s lab, Kadhim will study the molecular processes involved in the final stages of the development of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. He will specifically study the role of a protein called MED15, which plays an important role in the process of decoding DNA, and may be critical to development of healthy beta cells. The failure of pancreatic beta cells causes diabetes. By studying how beta cells form, Kadhim is contributing to efforts to successfully grow these cells in a lab, so they can be transplanted into patients with diabetes.

Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Foundation Graduate Studentship
Vicky Li, J. Lim Research Team

Li will work with Dr. Chinten James Lim’s research team to study the role of the protein integrin α6 in basal-like breast cancers, which are particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. Li will investigate the hypothesis that a sub-type of integrin α6 plays a key role in driving the development and metastasis of basal-like cancers. Li’s research could eventually lead to creation of new treatments for basal-like cancers that work by targeting the function of integrin α6.

Healthy Starts Graduate Studentship
Zohreh Sharafianardakani, Lavoie Research Team

As a member of Dr. Pascal Lavoie’s research team, Sharafian will study how T cells, a type of immune cells, work in newborns. Specifically Sharafian will study non-inherited changes in gene expression in the T cells of newborns and compare these changes to those seen in adult T cells. By studying how the newborn immune system works, Sharafian is working to contribute to more effective vaccines that will protect newborns from deadly infections.

Sue Carruthers Graduate Studentship
Shannon Sproul, Lynn Research Team

Working in Dr. Francis Lynn’s lab, Sproul will study how insulin-producing beta cells form as the pancreas develops before birth. Type 1 diabetes occurs as a result of pancreatic beta cell death, and replacing these cells through transplantation can end the need for daily insulin injections and effectively cure diabetes. However, these transplants are not widely performed due to a lack of donors and the risk of life-threatening side effects. Understanding how pancreatic beta cells form could help scientists produce these cells in the lab, increasing the safety and availability of beta cell transplantation.

Graduate Studentship
Jacob Stubbs, Panenka Research Team

As part of Dr. William Panenka’s lab, Stubbs will evaluate a “dual-task” eye movement test which may one day lead to a more effective way to diagnose children and youth with concussions. This test will combine measurement of a type of eye movement called smooth pursuit with a demanding memory test. Stubbs hypothesizes that measuring the effects of a memory test on eye movement may allow doctors to more effectively determine whether or not a patient has a concussion. Currently, there is no way to accurately diagnose concussions, which affect tens of thousands of Canadians every year.

Jan M. Friedman Graduate Studentship
Yuyin Yi, Leung Research Team

Yi will work in Dr. Peter C.K. Leung’s lab to explore the role of a peptide – a short chain of amino acids – called apelin and its receptor APJ in the formation of the trophoblast, a layer of tissue that nourishes the growing embryo early in pregnancy and eventually develops into a major part of the placenta. The goal of Yi’s research is to further the understanding of how the placenta forms in order to contribute to future diagnostic tools and treatments for infertility, pregnancy loss and pregnancy

You are invited to celebrate the recipients of these honours at 2018 Town Hall and Research Excellence Celebration:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
3:15 p.m.
Chan Centre for Family Health Education at BC Children’s Hospital

Please see the full agenda on ResearchHub for more details.

For more information on this year's award recipients, refer to the 2018 Program Booklet.