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Student Feature - Sheena Manghera

Sheena Manghera

MSc student Sheena Manghera recently competed in the Western Regional Three Minute Thesis competition, and we caught up with her to hear about this event and her program. 

Can you tell us about your current graduate program and research focus?

I enrolled in M.Sc. Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy program at the University of Winnipeg in May 2015, and expect to graduate this October.

The focus of my research is on Human Endogenous Retrovirus K (ERVK) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Surprisingly, about 8% of the human DNA is made up of chunks of retroviral sequences, called endogenous retroviruses - ERVK being one of them. ERVK proteins are normally not detected in the adult human brain, but accumulate at high levels in the brains of patients with ALS. We do not yet understand how this virus is re-activated in the brain, and it is very important to understand this process because ERVK proteins may play an important role in the neuropathology of ALS. So, the focus of my research is to dissect cellular pathways that contribute to ERVK re-activation in the brains of patients with ALS.

Congratulations on being selected to participate in the Western Regional Three Minute Thesis Competition! Can you tell us about your journey at the local and regional level?

I would like to thank the University of Winnipeg for believing in me and choosing me as their representative at the Western Regional Three Minute Thesis Competition. My 3MT journey at the local and the regional competition was quite exciting! Although it was quite challenging to explain the breadth and significance of my research to a non-specialist audience, it was a wonderful experience. At the local competition, I actually got very nervous and lost track of my presentation in the very beginning. 

However, I overcame my fear of presenting in front of a large audience, and on my second shot, delivered an interactive talk, and was chosen as the winner. Just like U of W, Thompson Rivers University at Kamloops had a very welcoming atmosphere, which really helped me overcome pre-competition nervousness. I believe that every graduate student should participate in 3MT competition as it will help them overcome their fear of public speaking, and will help them build interactive presentation skills and confidence.

Did you have a chance to connect with or socialize with any other students there?

I had a few opportunities to connect and socialize with other competitors at TRU. There was an orientation session in the morning of the competition, where we had a chance to meet the fellow competitors as well as the organizing team at TRU. We also had a chance to socialize and connect with students during lunch, as well as during the reception after the competition.

I imagine many of the other presenters were PhD students, was that intimidating?

Although many of the other presenters were PhD students, it was surprisingly not intimidating at all because everyone was really down to earth, welcoming, and wanted others to do their best in the competition.

You will be defending your thesis soon; do you know what you will do after you graduate in October?

Following the completion my of M.Sc. degree, I will begin my PhD this Fall with Dr. Renée Douville through the Department of Immunology, The University of Manitoba.

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