September 21, 2022

Summer studentship awards give young researchers a chance to make a difference

Our Summer Studentship Award Program encourages the next generation of talented young researchers to pursue careers in women’s and children’s health. In 2022, we supported 21 students and their projects across six faculties. Thank you to the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation for funding our amazing students!

Below are highlights of just three of these impactful summer projects. 

Parasite function in the sexually transmitted disease trichomoniasis

William Maciejowski went back in time by using computational techniques with large amounts of data to examine the evolution of T. vaginalis, a parasite that causes the most prominent non-viral sexually transmitted disease in the world. Trichomoniasis disproportionately affects women and causes issues with pregnancy, increases the risk of HIV and is associated with infertility. “Taking an evolutionary approach to medically-relevant problems is important because there are many hidden keys to understanding how globally-relevant parasites function tucked away in genetic data,” says Maciejowski. He is hopeful that searching through this data and reconstructing system-specific evolutionary trends may lead to more efficient modes of treatment.

Use of a gluten-free food guide for children with celiac disease

Childhood is a critical development period, and any unresolved nutrient deficiencies might cause permanent health concerns in the future. Rita Jiang evaluated how the implementation of the gluten-free food guide in newly-diagnosed children over six months of age impacts important health outcomes. She compared this with the effectiveness of a current standard of care to diet education in children with celiac disease in pediatric clinics at Alberta Health Services. 

“Seeing patients gain new nutritional knowledge and gradually overcome problems in adapting to a new diet after attending our counselling sessions was very rewarding,” says Jiang.

Diversity in Canadian studies of vaccination compared to Australia and New Zealand

Julia Wolf conducted a scoping review to identify diversity characteristics in Canadian studies of childhood vaccination in comparison to Australia and New Zealand. An interesting finding was the contrast between a high emphasis on ethnicity in general, but limited measurement of Indigenous identities in the Canadian literature reviewed. This discrepancy may create a divide in the value of diversity and possibly limit the innovation of equitable health solutions. “If the current research is not accurately representing the population, our evidence-based practice may be skewed, causing a decrease in the quality of care patients will receive,” says Wolf.

Read more about all of the projects the students worked on during the summer