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3MT Presenters – 2021

Ilena Benoit Ilena Benoit – Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy

Ilena Benoit received her BSc from the University of Winnipeg, with a double major in Biology and Bioanthropology. She is currently a first-year MSc student in the UW Bioscience Technology and Public Policy program. Her research looks at the impact of the Endogenous Retrovirus-K integrase enzyme in a fruit fly model of Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis (ALS)-like motor neuron disease.  She has strong interest in both virology and neuroscience and hopes to continue doing drug discovery research in the future. This fly gal’s hobbies include diamond painting, drinking coffee and watching copious amounts of Harry Potter.

RetroFLYrus: How the retroviral integrase protein impacts fruit fly motor activity

Amyotrophic Lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an incurable neurodegenerative disease caused by the loss of motor neurons. The human viral symbiont endogenous retrovirus-K (ERVK) has been linked with motor neuron loss in ALS. My research is focused on the role of the ERVK integrase enzyme in motor disturbances.  Retroviral integrase proteins insert viral DNA into host genomes, causing DNA damage and instability, which leads to cell death. My hypothesis is that motor dysfunction in ERVK integrase transgenic flies will correlate with neuropathological evidence of DNA damage, inflammation and toxic protein aggregation, as seen in patients with ALS. In an effort to halt the damage caused by the viral ERVK IN enzyme, I will evaluate drug efficacy in flies given FDA-approved Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) integrase inhibitors. The findings from this project will go on to inform ALS clinical trials and contribute to the fight against this devastating neurological disease.

AdaAda Chukwudozie

Master’s in Development Practice: Indigenous Development

Ada Chukwudozie (MA Human Rights, LLB (Hons), BL) is currently a graduate student at the University of Winnipeg, pursuing a Master's degree in development practice- Indigenous development. Ada is a qualified lawyer (non-practicing) with an MA in Human Rights from University College London and has been involved in the publishing of plain language summaries of systematic reviews for the Campbell Collaboration on a wide array of editorial topic areas including methods, social welfare, education, disability, education, international development, and crime and justice. Ada is a passionate about issues of social justice and human rights and is an advocate of community-driven research that drives policy

Exploring the Idea of “land back” as the Answer to Achieving Sustainable Self-Determination

The right to Indigenous self-determination is a right that is inherent in all Indigenous communities and it is a right that is undeniable. Nonetheless, with the advent of colonization came a marginalization of Indigenous peoples in Canada and their systems of self-governance and self-determination, limiting the possibilities of practicing these systems of governance and economies in today’s society. As such, the contemporary reality facing Indigenous peoples in Canada today is that what governance structures and models they do have are grounded largely on the principles of global capitalism¬– one driven by values that both contradict Indigenous cultures and traditional values and actively seeks to erode them. My paper aims to explore the idea of sustainable self-determination and the concept of true reconciliation using the “land back” argument which provides a real opportunity for the implementation of sustainable Indigenous self-determination when analysed against the framework of consent-based jurisdiction and Indigenous reclamation.

Karl Friesen HughesKarl Friesen-Hughes - Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy

I am a graduate student in the Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy program studying under the supervision of Dr. Nora Casson. My research focuses on catchment biogeochemistry under a changing climate at the International Institute for Sustainable Development - Experimental Lakes Area. I am looking at how the source, transport, and transformation of dissolved organic carbon varies across these boreal landscapes. This research is funded by the University of Winnipeg Graduate Studies Scholarship (UWGSS).

What's up DOC?: Dissolved Organic Carbon Dynamics in a Boreal Watershed Under a Changing Climate

The boreal forest is the largest land biome on Earth and is experiencing the most significant temperature increase of all forest biomes in the 21st century. Understanding how climate change is affecting the boreal region will help us predict future changes to the carbon cycle. The boreal forest is a significant part of the global carbon cycle. The impacts of climate change on carbon dynamics in this region are not well understood. 

My project is based at the International Institute for Sustainable Development – Experimental Lakes Area, at a long-term study watershed. My project will look at how the landscape source of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) influences the quantity and quality of DOC downstream. This research will improve our understanding of how climate change affects the transport and transformation of carbon in forested ecosystems, which will support sustainable management, as well as providing evidence to support government decision-making on climate action.

OumaimaOumaima Hamila – Applied Computer Science and Society

Oumaima Hamila is an international Masters student in Applied Computer Science and Society at the University of Winnipeg. She graduated in 2018 as a computer science engineer in her home country from the Faculty of Sciences of Tunis, and then she worked for a year as a research assistant in Qatar University, only to realize that she wants to pursue her studies in Canada. Currently, she is in her second year in a thesis-based master’s program and works on establishing a framework to generate 3D imaging datasets of plants and developing 3D convolutional neural networks to learn, interpret and analyze data in order to monitor plant growth and to optimize yields.

Empowering Agriculture by Creating Labeled Datasets and AI-Driven Monitoring Systems

As technological advances conquered the world during the last two centuries, the early techniques of food production have subsequently been enhanced by integrating modern technologies that led to a substantial growth in the global food production needed to cover the needs of nearly 8 billion people. Nevertheless, the agriculture field still requires a massive improvement, especially with the rise of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine-learning, in order to optimize the use of water, nutrients, and pesticides to ameliorate food quality. Therefore, my research work as part of a team aims to contribute in the integration of modern technologies in the agricultural field to create massive labeled datasets representing different crops and plants. By studying these datasets, we also design AI-empowered automated systems that can extract valuable information from any studied plant in real-time and identify its individual needs and its potential diseases in order to assist farmers in optimizing healthy crop yields.

Holly HunterHolly Hunter – Public Administration

Holly scholarly interest lies at the nexus of K-12 public education and public policy. Her passion comes from her experience working as a middle school teachers and school trustee. She received a Bachelor of Arts (2012), Bachelor of Education (2014), and Master of Education (2019), all from the University of Manitoba, and is currently in the Master of Public Administration program.

The Politics of School Closures: Enrollment Growth and Decline in St. James-Assiniboia School Division 1950-2008

How do we plan for schools amidst changes in demographics and settlement patterns? St. James-Assiniboia School Division (SJASD) has an enrollment of 8,000 students; a number that has remained largely stable for the past decade. Although, consistency is new phenomena for SJASD; a division that for much of the twentieth century had large fluctuations in enrollment. From 1951 to 1971 the division built 30 schools, but this growth could not – and did not – continue. In the decades that followed, over a dozen schools were closed. History appears to be repeating itself. There is a residential development boom happening on the periphery of the city, but school construction has not kept up with demand. The Manitoba government has committed to building 20 school in the next decade. But will these new schools stand the test of time or will they - like so many in SJASD - fall into disuse?

Emmanuel AyoolaEmmanuel Lekan Ayoola - Applied Economics 

My keen interest in studying the dynamics of events and developing macroeconomic models have made to carry out several research in Development Economics, Macroeconomics, Energy Economics, Biomathematics and Heath Economics.  I started my Master’s Program in Applied Economics in the Fall of 2020 with a specialization in Environment, Resource and Development Economics (ERDE) at the University of Winnipeg to be adequately equipped with relevant skills that I need to succeed as an Energy Economics. 

Impact of FDI to Economic Growth in Africa 

The growth impact of foreign direct investment remains a matter of debate, especially for developing economies. However, focusing on African countries may be interesting as foreign direct investment to Africa has been on an increase since the early 1990s. This project employs a Fixed Effect Model on panel data of 50 countries in Africa from 1990 to 2019 so as to examines the resultant effects of FDI on the African economy. Therefore, this study provides new insights in understanding the impact of FDI inflows to African economy. 

Aleksandra Manzhura – Criminal Justice

Aleks is a criminal justice student in the final year of her MA studying experiences with medical assistance in dying in Manitoba under the supervision of Dr. Kelly Gorkoff. This research was funded by a Research Manitoba Master’s Studentship as well as a SSHRC Graduate Scholarship.

Medical Assistance in Dying: Perspectives from Manitoba

Following the decriminalization of medical assistance in dying (MAID) in 2016, profuse debates ensued with concerns being raised regarding the implementation of this practice. However, lost in these political debates are the voices and experiences of those who engage in the day-to-day operations of MAID, namely, MAID providers, patients, and their families who often assist with the process. My research examined the experiences and perspectives of the local MAiD team and family members, using semi-structured interviews. Two major themes were extracted from participant responses.

The first theme discusses the lack of MAiD awareness and understanding among the public and medical professionals, which impedes access to MAiD for eligible and willing patients. The second theme highlights how moral objections (personal, professional, or institutional) have also impeded access to MAiD, especially due to the policies of faith-based healthcare facilities. These abstaining facilities prohibit MAiD on their premises and require patients to transfer elsewhere to pursue it which can delay or prevent access to MAiD altogether. Research findings suggest a need for public awareness campaigns, standardized professional development for medical communities, and a need for a collaborative compromise with abstaining facilities that does not undermine patient rights.

RevantiRevanti Mukherjee - Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy

I am an international student from India in Biosciences, Technology and Public Policy at the University of Winnipeg. I graduated with a Bachelors of Technology (B.Tech) degree in Biotechnology and I am currently in the first year of the program. I have always been fascinated by the enigma of biology which led to my interest to pursue higher education in cancer biology and molecular genetics. My research primarily focuses on better understanding of the risk of breast cancer recurrence in patients that influences treatment options and quality of life. My ultimate goal is to continue in the field of healthcare research and contribute to the existing body of scientific knowledge.  

Predicting Recurrence of ER+ Breast Cancer: Simple Test Vital Outcome

Cancer exists since millions of years (yes, now we know the dinosaurs had it too!) but even after billions of dollars in research, we haven’t found a solution that affects more than 14 million people with an estimated 9.6 million deaths annually in North America. We are constantly learning about the science of how cancer responds to therapies. Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women. The remarkable advancement in breast cancer treatment has led to the cure of some types of breast cancer; unfortunately, 2 million women still die of breast cancer every year globally. “What if it comes back?” - Recurrent breast cancer risk lingers even after years of initial treatment and learning about it is harder than dealing with the initial diagnosis. Understanding the risk of recurrence is important because it can influence treatment options and improve quality of life. The identification of potential biomarkers is a key component of informed decision making in therapeutics and our laboratory discovered novel protein biomarkers in primary breast tumours that could predict the treatment response. My research focuses on determining the mechanistic role of novel biomarkers in the progression of breast cancer. The outcome of my research will aid in developing affordable and simple tests to predict breast cancer treatment response.

Kate RobbKate Robb

Master’s in Development Practice: Indigenous Development

Kate completed a BA in Environmental Studies in 2018, and is now in her final year of the Master's in Development Practice program. Her research interests include public participation in resource management, environmental policy, and community-led renewable energy.

Who has the Power? Meaningful Public Participation in Canadian Water Power Licencing

All hydroelectric projects in Manitoba must be licensed under the Water Power Act – but how does this legislation include meaningful participation from Indigenous peoples or the public? The purpose of this research is to identify best practices in the participatory regulation of hydropower licencing across Canada. Data collection involves a literature review, a legislative analysis, and interviews with experts on waterpower licencing, with data analysis utilizing a thematic approach. Preliminary results indicate that most licencing processes across Canada fail to adequately include Indigenous peoples and the public. Legislative processes in Yukon and Northwest Territories have the highest standards of engagement, including mandatory public hearings for all license applications. None of the processes in Canada appear to meet the best practices of Indigenous engagement, including relational processes and the inclusion of traditional knowledge. The WPA should be revised based on best practices from the literature and other jurisdictions.

Colleen RobertsonColleen Robertson - Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy

Colleen Robertson received her B.Env.Sc. from the University of Manitoba with a specialization in conservation and biodiversity. She is currently completing her M.Sc. in Bioscience, Technology and Public Policy at the University of Winnipeg. Colleen’s interests lie at the intersection of ecological research and natural resource management. Her research, proposing function-based grassland management, contributes to a refocusing of grassland conservation and restoration in Canadian National Parks.

Fescue Rescue: Using Plant Traits to Assess Climate Change Resilience in Grasslands Communities  

Global climate change is transforming northern Great Plains ecosystems with more frequent and prolonged drought periods. Conservation of remaining grasslands depends on effective management that builds the resilience of grassland communities to drought. My research aims to understand how grasslands respond to climate change based on the structure of individual grassland plants. Specifically, I study leaf traits to link plant morphology and structure to drought tolerance. My work focuses on Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, one of the last intact areas of northern fescue prairies in western Canada. Until 50 years ago, livestock grazing was permitted in the park. Grazing changes the composition of grassland communities by selecting for species with grazing tolerant traits. However, traits that help plants tolerate grazing can also make them vulnerable to drought. My findings will contribute to effective management of grasslands in Canadian National Parks to adapt conservation to the effects of changing climates.

Jantje van de Weetering – Criminal Justice

Jantje completed her BA in Criminal Justice (Hons.) at the University of Winnipeg in 2018, graduating with the gold medal of academic achievement in the Criminal Justice Honours Program. For her Master’s thesis, she examined the influence of post-secondary education on perceptions of crime and attitudes towards punishment under the supervision of Dr. Michael Weinrath. Her research was funded by a partial Manitoba Graduate Scholarship as well as a SSHRC Graduate Scholarship. Jantje successfully defended her thesis in December 2020 and hopes to graduate in February 2021.

A Mirage of Reality: Perceptions of Crime Seriousness and Punitive Attitudes in Post-Secondary Students

Public perceptions of crime seriousness and attitudes towards the punishment of crime stem from the social norms and values that shape society and are informed by social representations of crime. Using survey data collected from students at the University of Winnipeg, I examined the influence of post-secondary education, crime type and crime representation on perceptions of crime and punitive attitudes. Perceptions of crime varied significantly between crime types, crime representations, and fields of study, but not for the level of education completed. My findings suggest that universal notions of wrongfulness and harmfulness exist that influence perceptions of crime seriousness and are resistant to change. Understanding the factors influencing perceptions and attitudes towards crime may shed new light on the social approaches to dealing with crime, providing new insights into crime control practices and government crime policy. Finally, results emphasize the importance of reflecting on crime representation in academic research.

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