Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX biology master’s student to conduct research in Germany as recipient of NSERC Michael Smith Award

January 24th, 2018
Alex Young

Alex Young, a StFX MSc biology student from Berwick, NS, will be travelling to Germany this semester to conduct research as the recipient of a Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement Award from NSERC.

To be eligible for the award, candidates must already hold NSERC funding. Mr. Young, who is supervised by biology professor Dr. Russell Wyeth, is a recipient of a $17,500 NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s award. He also holds a Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship.

Mr. Young’s research at StFX includes identifying the genes and cell types responsible for producing different neurotransmitters inside of the snail’s sensory organs. Those neurotransmitters are key to the functioning of all nervous systems, as they allow neurons (cells of the nervous system) to communicate with each other.

He will spend over two months at Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, Germany, working in the lab of Dr. Dan Jackson. Mr. Young says his research, examining the nervous system of a snail species (Lymnaea stagnalis), is meant to build understanding of how snails, and, by extension,  all animals, process sensory information. 

He says the foreign study award will allow him to pursue the final component of his research as well as network and learn from international experts in his field. Dr. Jackson’s lab at the University of Göttingen is known for this type of research and has a sophisticated robotic system to help microscopically visualize the patterns of gene expression in different tissues. 

In addition, Mr. Young says, “It will be really nice to go (to Germany) culturally, and just to learn a lot of new science and experience how research is done in different parts of the world.” 

Overall, he says he hopes his work both here at StFX and in Germany will give researchers an idea of the different genes and types of cells in the nervous system, and help make progress on understanding the function of neurons, in snails and in all animals. 

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