University of Calgary

HYRS student contributes to research aimed at preventing pre-term labour

Submitted by darmstro on Tue, 2011-08-16 09:09.

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August 16, 2011

“I am really grateful to my bio teacher for encouraging me to apply,” says Marya Aman, a student of the 2011 Heritage Youth Researcher Summer program. “My teacher sees what I don’t see – that I am capable of more than I think!” Aman is one of 22 Grade 11 students chosen to participate in the six‐week HYRS program, providing hands‐on health research experiences in laboratories and clinics at the University of Calgary.

Aman is working in the laboratory of AIHS Scholar Donna Slater, PhD, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary. Slater’s research team studies what is happening in the uterus during labour – the smooth muscle cells, the biological triggers, and the genes – with the ultimate goal of designing drugs to intervene when women go into labour too early.

“It is humbling for me to learn the complexity of the human body,” says Aman who is going into Grade 12 at Medicine Hat High School this September. “I had no idea the work that goes into research … it takes a lot of people to make it happen!” Aman’s project is to look closely at the genes relating to pre-term labour, specifically, those which synthesize prostaglandins, biological mediators that make the uterus contract and relax. She is also studying a complex model of the smooth muscle cells of the uterus.

Slater is a member of the AIHS PreHOT team, an Alberta-wide research team that includes collaborators from Toronto, New York and Australia. The team of scientists and physicians are investigating why women go into early labour – from social factors to biological and genetic causes.

“Because of this experience, I have learned to prioritize, be patient, and manage my time much more effectively,” says Aman. “This program is really helping me get ready for the world,” she says.

“The HYRS program opens up medical research to young Albertans and their teachers,” says Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions CEO Jacques Magnan, PhD. “By successfully mentoring young people like Marya we accelerate their understanding of and exposure to research, and we help build the next generation of health leaders in our province.”

Media contact: Karen Thomas, Media Specialist, Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions, 1.877.423.5727 x225, 403.651.1112 (cell),

For information about Donna Slater’s work go to:


Province‐wide, there are 48 students working this summer at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and University of Lethbridge.

This year, the HYRS program received 202 applications from Grade 11 students in 100 schools across Alberta. An adjudication committee of high school teachers from St. Albert, Lethbridge, and Calgary, a faculty member from the University of Alberta, and a scientist from the University of Calgary, selected 48 students. Fourteen of the HYRS students are from towns and rural communities across Alberta. The Alberta Cancer Foundation is funding four spots – two at the University of Alberta and two at the University of Calgary.

HYRS participants receive a grant to work on research projects supervised by AIHS and university research mentors. The HYRS program hosts guest lecturers, poster sessions, field trips, and an open house where HYRS participants spend a day sharing what they have learned with their high school science teachers. AIHS also offers three‐day workshops that give high school science teachers research training at University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and University of Lethbridge.

Students who apply are required to have at least an 85% average, have completed core science subjects, two teacher references, a principal’s or vice principal’s reference, a community reference, and write an essay about health research that interests them and why they want to be part of the HYRS program.

For more information about HYRS: Danica Wolkow, HYRS Coordinator, 1.877.423.5727 x237,