The SFU Science Undergraduate Blog


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SFU Undergrad Researcher: Cherlene Emma Chang

Introducing Cherlene Emma Chang of the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology!

cherlene

Name: Cherlene Emma Chang
Department: Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology
Year: Third
Supervisor: Dr. Tom Claydon

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: A bioinformatical and clinical researcher. Computation is an increasingly invaluable skillset in the life sciences to quantify
scientific observations, while clinical relevance engages research with the treatment and management of patients to improve their
quality of life.

Q: How did you get involved in research?
A: I got involved in research through the BPK Co-op Program. Co-op is great for students to explore their career options and gain
valuable experience in their respective fields.

Q: What have you been working on in your research so far?
A: I have modelled the effects on the cardiac action potential as a result of the action of low pH on hERG potassium channels.
Myocardial ischemia occurs when blockage of coronary arteries reduces blood flow, preventing adequate oxygen perfusion. One
major consequence is acidosis, a reduction in local pH, contributing to cardiac arrhythmia. Acidosis profoundly affects hERG
potassium channels which provide a major repolarizing drive in the heart, and may suppress the protective mechanism of hERG
channels in preventing premature heartbeats.

Q: What will you be working on this summer?
A: This summer, my project is on zebrafish (Danio rerio) hearts as an excellent model of human cardiac electrophysiology. I will
use zebrafish hearts to study the action potential duration and cytoplasmic calcium handling using optical mapping techniques. I
aim to assess the effects of acidosis on irregular heartbeats using computer simulations.

Q: What is a typical “day in the life” in the lab for you?
A: I strike a balance between computational analysis and running experiments, where I write code in MATLAB and record ionic
currents in frog eggs (Xenopus laevis oocytes). I find that analyzing the data I collected firsthand enriches my research experience
through offering a well-rounded perspective on how each task fits in the bigger picture.

Q: What’s your favourite course that you have taken so far in your degree?
A: Introduction to Biological Physics (PHYS 347). Specifically, the electric circuit model of action potential propagation along a
neuron offered a fresh quantitative perspective on physiology.

Q: If you were a scientific lab instrument, which one would you be?
A: If I were a scientific lab instrument, I would be a computer. I enjoy modeling experimental data to equations, generating figures
for publications, and preparing powerpoint slides for presentations.

Q: What’s the funniest thing in research that’s happened to you?
A: During the 2017 BPK Research Day, I tripped down the stairs in the auditorium in my three-inch platform boots and spilled water
on myself. I laughed it off. Surprisingly, this incident calmed me down for my upcoming three-minute thesis and poster
presentations.

Q: What scares you the most in research?
A: The uncertainty of the future. Researchers apply for grants to get funded. Oftentimes there are more up-and-coming researchers
than grants available. Nonetheless, I will put my best foot forward in securing future grants.

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Optimization in the real world

By Cherlene Chang

     Cherlene_Pic1How does classroom learning translate to real-life applications? Well, the STEM Spotlight Awards offered my team (Cherlene Chang, BSc Kinesiology Major; Matthew Reyers, BSc Operations Research – Mathematics Major) the opportunity to pose a solution to a real-world question from Peace River Hydros Partners. Our challenge was to optimize the existing charter flight system in terms of minimizing cost and commute times of workers, which provides service to six flight hubs in Western Canada including Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Kelowna, Kamloops, and Prince George.

Fundamental to the formation of this team was the ideology of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and Simon Fraser University. Continue reading


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Stealth aircraft: the silent hunter

By Joanna Pater

We all know what an airplane is supposed to look like. A body with wings and a tail attached… and a cockpit at the front. A child could tell you the same.

But Air Force engineers don’t agree. It just takes a single look at the F-35 or the F117 Nighthawk to see that our concept of aircraft has dramatically shifted from what it was during World War II. From jet engines capable of reaching speeds twice that of sound, to even unmanned drones, the aircraft industry continues to evolve.

Recently, an image on the internet caught my attention. It was a side-by-side comparison of the B2 Stealth bomber and a peregrine falcon.Joanna Pater_plane_photo.jpg

The similarity is striking. But despite its futuristic appearance, this technology is not new. The B2 Bomber is simply one of many tailless, stealth aircraft. In fact, some claim the inspiration for this design dates all the way back to the German prototype Horten 229 of the Second World War. Continue reading


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Twitter and Science, revisited

By Lauren Dobischok

     When people ask me what my greatest influence was to pursue science in university, I think they expect to hear a vaguely inspiring story about how I was driven to make the world a better place or more deeply understand the intricacies of life around me. The real answer? Twitter. Upon hearing this many people are incredulous that material more complex than hashtags and memes exists on Twitter- isn’t that where people go to procrastinate on homework they have to do and complain about the state of their hockey team? Fortunately, over the years Twitter has evolved into a platform for professionals to network directly with each other, as well as interact with members of the public. Businesses, innovators, academics, artists, scientists, and the general public are now able to share content, provide opinions, crowd source, and meet new people with shared interests through a website initially intended to assist groups of friends in keeping tabs on each other. Not bad. As a student now in second year university who discovered the online scientific community in high school, Twitter changed the way I thought about science and how it is communicated, and continually introduced me to new research and current issues that I am simply not aware of through reading large, popular science magazines and websites. In my eyes, when academics use Twitter to network and educate, both professionals and the public are the beneficiaries. Continue reading


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Introducing the first issue of the SFU Science Undergraduate Research Journal!

SFU SURJ_2015-16_Cover_FINAL_Front.pngIt is with immense joy that we formally introduce you to the culmination of a project that has been almost 2 years in the making: the very first issue of the SFU Science Undergraduate Research Journal! The digital version can be read here.

Consisting of five research articles and one review article, we are proud and excited to finally share the work of these talented undergraduate researchers, and we would like to invite you to join us in celebrating our release.

We will be hosting a launch event on Thursday September 29th where there will be free print copies of the journal, food, drinks, and the chance to chat with other undergraduates, reviewers, and professors about science and undergraduate research! The event will take place from 3:00-5:00pm in the Bio-Physics Lounge (located on the 9000 level between the Biology and Physics wings).

Finally, if you are an undergraduate with research to submit, we are currently accepting submissions for the 2016-17 cycle! Further details can be found here.

If you are interested in joining the editorial team for the upcoming year, we are accepting applications for editors and a graphic editor until October 8th and September 15th respectively. Find the editor application form here.


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Arts student makes fish friends: on interdisciplinary research

By Griffin Kelly

This spring, I had the opportunity to complete a research project at Salmon Coast Field Station (SCFS), located in the Broughton Archipelago, situated between northern Vancouver Island and the mainland. I am a third year student at the University of Toronto (UofT), but unlike most students and researchers at SCFS, I am not studying science or math. I am completing a double major in Canadian Studies & Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies. Students are streamed into science or arts so early in life – most of my peers, including myself, decided what subjects we were “good” at somewhere around grade 10. I chose history and social studies – the arts. The choice quickly seems irreversible as prerequisites build up and academic pressure looms. I studied marine science in high school, completing field work and scuba diving courses outside of Victoria, BC, for two years. I highly valued this experience, but considered it an outlier in my academic career. However, in my program at UofT, I learned about the impact of natural resources on national identity and conflict originating from resource or land disputes. As climate change continues, there will only be less resources for our growing population. The politics of resource distribution will become increasingly heated and inequitable if there are not legislative measures put in place to protect resources and the communities that rely on them. These issues forced me to recognize that I would need training in conflict theory, but also knowledge of climate change science. Therefore, I came full circle to my interest in marine science, and decided to enroll in an Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB) research excursion course about salmon at SCFS. Continue reading


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Introducing the 2016-17 submission guidelines!

Just a couple of days ago I (Emma) registered our journal for its very own ISSN! I will be the first to admit that I was more than a little excited. With the release of our first issue just around the corner (details of a launch event soon to come!), we are already ramping up for the 2016-17 cycle.

We will begin accepting submissions as of September 6th, 2016, and with that in mind we have released an updated set of submission guidelines for the upcoming cycle. The full set of guidelines can be found on our website or downloaded directly here.

A couple of important changes to note:

  1. Rolling Submissions: This cycle, SFU SURJ will be adopting a rolling submissions system. Manuscripts will be evaluated by editors as they are received. If conditionally accepted, submissions will immediately enter the peer review process. Articles will be released digitally throughout the months leading up to the release of a print publication in September 2017, compiling the articles together. The final deadline to submit for the 2016-17 cycle is January 13th, 2017.
  2. Research articles: The primary goal of our journal is to foster and feature undergraduate research in a positive, educational environment. With this in mind, we have clarified our requirements of research articles. Research submitted to SFU SURJ must be original and scientifically sound, but it need not necessarily be novel. Negative results, replication studies, etc will accepted. This policy is similar to that of journals like PLOS ONE.

After a first year during which we were delighted to read about the wonderful research being conducted by undergraduates, we are looking forward to the next round of submissions! If you have any questions about our submission guidelines, drop us a line at sfusurj@sfu.ca, and stay tuned for the 2015-16 issue headed your way.