Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Eight StFX students awarded 2017 NSHRF Scotia Scholars Awards for health research

May 30th, 2017
NSHRF Scotia Scholars Awards recipients include, front row from left, Carmen Landry, Elizabeth Wallace, and Laura Davidson. Back row: Devin Wood, Hannah Stevens, and Molly Rutherford. Missing from the photo are Emma Truffyn and Jessica Delorey.

Eight StFX students have been awarded 2017 Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (NSHRF) Scotia Scholars Awards, which provide $5,000 in financial support to high caliber students engaged in health research at Nova Scotia universities.

The goal of the awards is to support the development of the next generation of highly qualified health researchers and leaders at an early stage of their career.

The students, Laura Davidson, Hannah Stevens, Carmen Landry, Elizabeth Wallace, Emma Truffyn, Jessica Delorey, Devin Wood and Molly Rutherford—working on projects as diverse as anxiety as a barrier to dental care to understanding how antihistamines may affect the mitochondria in the brain following exercise—say the awards provide invaluable opportunity.

“Being selected for the NSHRF Scotia Scholar Award allows me the freedom to put my academic pursuits first. This opportunity means that I have more time and resources available to devote to my research. I feel very honoured to be among the recipients,” says psychology student Jessica Delorey of Antigonish, NS whose research investigates the perceptions that preservice and inservice teachers have toward inclusive adaptations to outdoor education.

Her research, supervised by Dr. Erin Austen and Dr. Andrew Foran, begins this summer by collecting data from a sample of inservice teachers enrolled in an ‘Outdoor Education’ course at StFX.

Emma Truffyn of Calgary, AB, a senior honours psychology student taking a special concentration in forensic psychology, is working under the supervision of psychology professor, Dr. Margo C. Watt investigating the role of anxiety in people’s approach and avoidance of dental care. 

“It is suggested that anxiety is a barrier to good dental care, which can negatively influence an individual's oral health. To date, no research has examined how anxiety plays a role in Nova Scotians’ utilizing dental services,” she says. 

“I am extremely grateful to be a recipient of the NSHRF Scotia Scholar award. Not only do I get to work on a project I am so passionate about, but I get the opportunity to collaborate with dental professionals in Nova Scotia. This invaluable experience has not only opened up so many doors for myself, but has helped me feel more prepared for graduate school. I am really excited to work on this project, as this research has positive implications for the dental well-being of Nova Scotians and global health.”

PUT STUDIES INTO PRACTICE

“I am so grateful to have received this award. Being able to do research with a professor this summer will allow me to really put into practice what I have been studying the past three years, and is the epitome of hands-on learning,” says Elizabeth Wallace of Antigonish, NS, a senior honours B.Sc. in human kinetics student.

She is working with Dr. Dan Kane to see how antihistamines may affect the mitochondria in the brain following exercise. Ms. Wallace says this research has potential implications for people who are exercising to treat or prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. 

“Being able to do research during the summer months means that we are able to thoughtfully and thoroughly outline a sound study design, which has already been and will continue to be, an incredible learning experience,” she says.

Fourth year honours biology student Laura Davidson of Halifax, NS, is also working with Dr. Kane, investigating the effects of antihistamines on mitochondrial function in exercised skeletal muscle. “I anticipate that this research may have implications in the prevention and treatment of chronic metabolic syndromes, such as type 2 diabetes, for which exercise is commonly prescribed,” she says.

“This is an incredibly valuable opportunity for me to explore my interests, develop my research skills and apply my scientific knowledge in a practical way,” Ms. Davidson says. “I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity, and feel that this will provide me with a strong foundation in the field of scientific research.”

DEVELOP SKILLS

Fourth year student Hannah Stevens of St. Margaret's Bay, NS, who is taking a joint advanced major in biology and mathematics, is researching snail behaviour under the supervision of biology professor Dr. Russell Wyeth.  

“We are studying how the snails respond to odours in flowing water and non-flowing water. This research will help us to understand how the snails integrate sensory information to form behaviours. Snails can then be used as a model system for human sensory integration,” she says.

She says this opportunity is so important to her as it allows her to develop so many useful skills for further studies as well as life. “It is also a chance to learn from the ground up about the human nervous system and how/why we behave the way we do. I am very grateful to the NSHRF for allowing me to be able to have this opportunity.”

Carmen Landry, a fourth year honours biology student from Sydney, NS, also working under the supervision of Dr. Wyeth, is studying gene expression in the peripheral nervous system of Lymnaea stagnalis (the great pond snail). “By increasing our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying sensory processing in the nervous system of this model organism, we will be able to improve our understanding of various neurological disorders affecting humans,” she says. 

She says she is excited to have the opportunity to explore research in her field of interest and learn valuable lab techniques along the way. “I will be using the research work done this summer to complete my honours thesis in the upcoming year.” 

DEDICATE SUMMER TO RESEARCH

“Receiving this grant means that I have the financial support to dedicate my summer to research, something that otherwise would not have been feasible,” says Molly Rutherford of Kingston, ON, who is going into her fourth year of a B.Sc. in human kinetics. Her research looks at how caffeine affects performance in female athletes at different stages of the menstrual cycle in heat stress (hot temperatures).

She says being awarded the grant by the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation has been both inspiring and motivating. “I am very honoured and excited to have this opportunity to contribute to the healthcare community while furthering my own education with the support of (supervisor) Dr. Matt Palmer,” she says.

“This opportunity gives me the chance to spend my summer gaining first-hand experience in the field of psychological research. This will allow me to build my statistical and analytical skills, in a field I wish to make a career in,” says Devin D. Wood, a fourth year honours psychology student from Lunenburg, NS.

With his thesis supervisor Dr. Kara Thompson, he is looking at sense of belonging as a predictor for how much students are affected by second-hand harms from other students.

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