University of Calgary

An invaluable experience

UToday HomeFebruary 14, 2013

By Judy Zhu

The Markin Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) in Health and Wellness nurtures undergraduate students in an environment of trailblazing research. One such scholar is third-year engineering student Brayden Kooistra.

“I’m in Chemical Engineering with a Biomedical Engineering specialization, and I wanted to do a summer research project as a requirement for the degree,” says Kooistra. “I started in May, funded by Markin USRP, and I’ve been able to work on the project essentially non-stop since then."

For the research project, Kooistra worked under the mentorship of Kristina Rinker, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. He chose to look at how shear forces from fluid flow in the vascular system affects breast cancer cells.

“I found my project really exciting and engaging. Initially I wanted to just fulfill the degree requirement for the summer. After we were able to show that flow actually affected cancer cell physiology, I continued the project into the fall/winter term because I wanted to follow through and see the bigger scheme.”

The Markin USRP is one of the only opportunities University of Calgary undergraduate students have to receive funding for research during the fall/winter academic sessions. The program also provides fellow researchers with the opportunity to network with each other.

“One of the great things about the Markin program is their student group seminars where you can meet other students,” says Kooistra. “One of our collaborators from whom we received some of our breast cancer cell lines had a Markin summer student as well, so we were able to have discussions on cell culture. Having that connection really helped me at the start of my project.”

At the end of each term, Markin scholars are given the opportunity to present their findings to an outside audience. Kooistra’s presentation of his summer research in the Markin USRP Student Research Symposium for Summer 2012 was the first of many talks he would later give on his research.

“I had the opportunity to give a ten minute podium presentation at the Alberta Biomedical Engineering conference in Banff,” recalls Kooistra, “It was an extremely invaluable and exciting experience.”

Kooistra will present findings from his fall/winter research in March, at the Winter 2013 Markin USRP Student Seminar Series.