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IBBME PhD candidate Mark Blaser at CSHRF.

IBBME PhD candidates Mark Blaser and Lewis Reis had a lot to celebrate after attending the CIHR Canadian Student Health Research Forum (CSHRF), a conference which only the top 5% of doctoral students in Canada are invited to attend.

Blaser and Reis were awarded honourable mentions at the June 12-14 conference, which focused on health research.

“The calibre of students and their research presented at this conference was astounding, so to even be considered as a nominee to attend this conference was a huge accomplishment for me and helps put into perspective the research I am doing and the quality of it,” said Reis. “To then get an honourable mention for my poster was completely unexpected, but again very rewarding.”

Reis, who works under Associate Professor Milica Radisic (IBBME, ChemE), is researching the incorporation of ‘growth factor’ molecules – molecules that help direct repair – into a gel that can be delivered to the heart after an injury such as a heart attack. The hope is to save the injured muscle or repair the damaged tissue.

And under the supervision of Associate Professor Craig Simmons (MIE, IBBME), Blaser’s research also touches on the heart. “My work focuses on aortic valve disease,” said Blaser, who hopes to discover earlier diagnoses and the production of “possible targets for pharmacological intervention, so that surgical replacement can be avoided in the future.”

Blaser also recently won second place in the ‘Young Investigator’ competition at the 2012 Heart Valve Biology and Tissue Engineering Conference in Greece and third place in the poster competition at the 2012 Canadian Connective Tissue Conference in Toronto.

A world away, Yun Xiao, who fast-tracked into the collaborative PhD program between the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and IBBME, presented her research in tissue engineering and wound healing at the 9th World Biomaterials Congress held in Chengdu, China from June 1-5.

Paul Santerre and Yun Xiao in Chengdu, China
IBBME Director Paul Santerre and Yun Xiao in Chengdu, China for the 9th World Biomaterials Congress.

Out of the 1,735 poster presentations from students, professors, research departments and companies, Xiao walked away with the ‘Best Poster’ prize for her work entitled “Developing Cardiac Biofibers with Microfabricated Devices.”

The World Biomaterials Congress was just Xiao’s first academic conference experience, but she wasn’t at all phased by the competition. “I was more concerned about finishing everything in five minutes than being nervous,” she explained.

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