A new collective of experts at Trent are advancing interdisciplinary research interests across different fields of science.
The Molecules, Cells & Systems Research Group comprises 17 faculty from Biology, Chemistry, Forensic Science, Psychology and Kinesiology, researchers and professors who are looking for ways to build more academic bridges between the departments.
“We already see some cross-departmental collaboration, but we wanted to formalize efforts and opportunities for faculty and students from different departments to come together, ultimately to expand the potential of our research programs and highlight Trent’s strength in molecules, cells, and systems research,” said Dr. Robert Huber, professor of Biology at Trent and one of the research group’s co-founders, along with Dr. Carolyn Kapron, now a professor emeritus of Biology.
“The sharing of ideas and expertise facilitated by this group will help Trent researchers to better investigate fundamental questions in the life sciences, as well as to help solve some of the pressing health and environmental issues that we face,” said Professor Kapron.
The research group has capitalized on existing student interest in these programs. For example, Trent University has more than 100 joint major students in Biology and Psychology, and graduate students enrolled in the Environmental & Life Sciences (ENLS) Master’s and Ph.D. programs at Trent often have varied undergraduate backgrounds and research topics.
Research group’s first annual symposium
While it was originally established in 2019, the research group hosted its inaugural Molecules, Cells & Systems Research Symposium this April as the official introduction of the group to campus following restrictions and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The symposium is about showcasing undergrad and graduate research activity from the past year across the group faculty members’ academic departments,” said Professor Huber. “It’s a chance for students to share their work in a formal setting, strengthen their presentation and communication skills, and make new academic connections.”
The elective event drew in 21 undergraduate and graduate student researchers from the ENLS and Psychology graduate programs, as well as the Biology, Biomedical Science and Psychology undergraduate programs.
The symposium featured two keynote talks, the first by Dr. Ina Anreiter (University of Toronto Scarborough) who described her research on how complex genes are regulated to affect behaviour, and the second by Dr. Craig Brunetti, dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Trent, who explained the development of spotted wing pattens in butterflies.
Presentation awards were also given at the event—two for graduate students and one for undergraduate students—which recognize the work to prepare to present at research symposiums and events. The winners of the inaugural symposium awards were:
Mark Seegobin, ENLS graduate program (supervisors: Dr. Craig Brunetti and Dr. Neil Emery, Biology) “Cytokinins reduce in vitro viral production and increase viral spread in frog virus 3”
Vedanti Ghatwala, ENLS graduate program (supervisors: Dr. Janet Yee and Dr. Neil Emery, Biology) “Using metabolomics to understand the role of cytokinin hormones in Giardia intestinalis”
Faith Tucker, Undergraduate student (supervisor: Dr. Neil Fournier, Psychology) “Effect of chronic stress on kindling-induced emotionality in male and female rats”