[HYRS] is a really fun program that I would 100% recommend to anyone interested in research. Even after you finish the program, having the research experience opens up a lot of different opportunities later on. Definitely get involved!
Joel Jansen was interested in studying a STEM field after high school. What he found in the HYRS program was an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research, meet new friends and experience meaningful collaboration to take with him into university. Working with flaviviruses, such as Zika Virus and West Nile Virus, Joel learned how to use affinity chromatography and Microscale Thermophoresis among other interesting lab techniques.
What drew you to the HYRS program?
I was interested in studying a STEM field after I graduated high school, and I thought HYRS would be a great way to experience some of the research opportunities uLethbridge has to offer. Also, the opportunity to meet some of my potential classmates later on was great!
What research have you engaged in? Tell us what you have enjoyed most about your projects, including any cool findings!
I worked in Dr. Trushar Patel's lab studying flavivirus reproduction. Flaviviruses such as Zika Virus, West Nile Virus, and Japanese Encephalitis, often lack effective treatment options. While vaccines may be available, if someone ends up getting sick with one of these viruses there are very few treatment options aside from treating symptoms. Dr. Patel's research focused on finding the specific regions of the viral strand which assist in reproduction, with the intent of eventually finding a way to mimic or prevent these interactions in order to create an effective anti-viral treatment. As a part of this, I worked to help produce the protein DDX5 which has been shown to assist in Japanese Encephalitis Virus reproduction. One of my favourite parts of this project was being able to see all the different lab processes used in order to produce a protein like this. Most of my work was in growing bacterial colonies which contained DDX5, and then doing many different processes to refine and purify it. One super cool way to filter the different proteins is affinity chromatography. Affinity chromatography works by running all your proteins through a column filled with special beads. The desired protein is created with a special tag on it, which binds with the beads. Then all of the waste proteins are washed from the column. We are then able to remove the bound proteins from the column, leaving a very pure sample of our desired protein. Another cool thing I learned about was how different fields such as physics and chemistry had applications in a more biochemistry focused lab. One such application was Microscale Thermophoresis. MST works by passing heat over a sample and measuring the movement of the particles within it. If the particles are bound and have had significant interactions, they will move with a much smaller velocity due to their greater mass. This is one of the methods Dr. Patel's lab uses in order to check if a certain region of the virus is binding with a cell.
What have you enjoyed the most about the HYRS program?
I really enjoyed participating in cutting edge research. I wasn't just recreating previously known experiments, I was helping to learn things never known before. It was a super cool feeling working along side several respected and extremely intelligent researchers. Another nice thing was the friends I made through the program. With the design philosophy of the Science Commons building, collaboration is heavily encouraged and I really felt that through HYRS. I was always talking and collaborating with my fellow researchers, and it was really nice to make friends.
What are your plans after university, and has the HYRS program contributed to your career plans?
After university, I plan to go to grad school for physics. I'd love to get a PhD and participate in research. HYRS definitely inspired me to pursue research going forward, especially during my time at the U of L. It helped show me that even if I don't have a ton of experience, I can still assist in research and learn along the way. It also got me some crucial research experience. I always considered research as an opportunity, but being able to get some experience and confirm that is was something I enjoyed was super nice!
Is there anyone who had an important influence on your experience with the program? This can be a fellow student in the HYRS program, a mentor, staff, or faculty.
My fellow HYRS students were all wonderful influences through my experience in the program! I made some really good friends who I still talk to today. It was always really fun being able to talk about our different findings and collaborate on future projects.
What advice would you give students who are interested in research through the HYRS program?
It is a really fun program that I would 100% recommend to anyone interested in research. Even after you finish the program, having the research experience opens up a lot of different opportunities later on. Definitely to get involved! Also, connect with your fellow HYRS students. It's a great way of meeting new people who you may get to know better in university!