President’s Research Assistantship (PRA) Experience

Alisha R. Fernandes

During my PRA, I conducted research in the laboratories and growth facilities of Prof. Christopher Hall. As a first-year student, I walked into a university research facility with very little technical and theoretical background. In a short period of time, I became competent in a number of laboratory techniques pertinent to pesticide biochemistry and recombinant antibody technology-related research. I applied these techniques to my own research project and completed a research paper, which is available for viewing at (hyperlink). While in the laboratory, I also assisted M.Sc. and PhD candidates with their research.

My project involved the infiltration of Nicotiana benthamiana (a plant related to tobacco) with the human monoclonal IgG1 antibody against the pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, extraction of the antibody from plant tissue and immunoblot analysis of prepared samples. The objective was to determine the effects of sample buffer pH and length of sample incubation (100oC) on the intensity of antibody fragment bands on immunoblots. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to participate as an undergraduate researcher. The wealth of information and advice offered to me by the staff, students and faculty were undoubtedly of great benefit to my learning experience. They provided me with a taste – alas, just a taste – of creating new scientific applications for society. I have been inspired to continue perusing the realms of scholarly research throughout my undergraduate studies at U of G – I look forward to it!


Christopher J Hall
Environmental Biology
ECBL Rm:2225
519-824-4120 x52740

Warren Dodd

I lived in the rural community of San Isidro, Honduras, for two months, where I was able to see my International Development major being put into practice. There, I became part of FIPAH (Fundacion para la Investigacion Participativa con Agricultores de Honduras), an organization that works in rural areas in Honduras and provides support to farmers in participatory agricultural research. I observed and participated in agricultural experiments, assisted in facilitating workshops on financial management and taught English classes at the local primary school. I learned about the many challenges facing Honduran farmers in San Isidro and the surrounding area, such as climate change and food insecurity. I developed great relationships with, and learned so much from, the committed and hard-working staff of FIPAH and many of the community members in San Isidro.


Sally Humphries
Sociology & Anthropology
MCKN Rm: 646
519-824-4120 x53542

Sandra McCubbin

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) on the International Barcode of Life project. Under the supervision of Prof. Paul Hebert, iBOL project director and professor in the University of Guelph's Department of Integrative Biology, I gained research experience in the lab and in the field and contributed to one of the most ambitious and exciting research projects on campus. I spent most of my time in the collections room, helping to organize, document and prepare specimens for barcoding. I was also fortunate enough to experience fieldwork and help collect specimens in different parts of the country -- in Pukaskwa National Park in Northern Ontario, Churchill, Manitoba, and St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Overall, I enjoyed my PRA at BIO immensely. Not only did I gain invaluable experience in scientific research, but I had a wonderful time working with some incredible people and spending time in some amazing places.


Paul Hebert
Integrative Biology
BLDG138 Rm: 2022H
519-824-4120 x56250

Lauren Wallace

This summer, I worked at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, the first large-scale facility devoted to DNA bar-coding.  I worked with Prof. Paul Hebert, a biologist who standardized the traditional approach used to identify specimens through his discovery of a technique that uses a short DNA sequence found in the mitochondria of animals. I entered specimens into the collections database and photographed specimens. Additionally, I spent a month doing field research in Ontario and in Churchill, Manitoba, collecting insects and marine worms for bar-coding. My work will help create a public library of the DNA barcodes of known and newly discovered plant and animal species. Eventually, this library and the bar-coding process will be miniaturized to create a portable device. I gained great memories (including an encounter with a polar bear!), a respect for fieldwork and a passion to pursue research.


Paul Hebert
Integrative Biology
BLDG138 Rm: 2022H
519-824-4120 x56250

Nirmal Shah

My PRA was divided into two parts. Many days were spent in fieldwork with the graduate students of Prof. Andrea Bradford, Engineering, at numerous watercourses. I helped to install transducers and piezometers, collect data using a thermometer, thermograph and YSI probes, and measure cross-sections to create a stream-flow model. I did pH testing and soil analysis, and maintained a bio-retention garden to quantify evapo-transpiration.

I also worked on a research project on aggregate extraction in Ontario and its impact on streams and wetlands. I met activists, government officials and industry personnel to obtain a broad perspective on the issue, and performed a thorough literature search.
The PRA allowed me to obtain invaluable, hands-on experience and to make connections with individuals in my area of interest. I also learned how research projects are undertaken in academia.


Andrea Bradford
School of Engineering
THRN Rm:1342
519-824-4120 x52485

Erin Preiss

For my PRA, I worked with Prof. Peter Physick-Sheard, Population Medicine and Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College ( My research focused on refining the transvenous electrical cardioversion procedure, developed at OVC to treat horses with atrial fibrillation. The primary objective of the study was to determine any relationship between energy needed to restore sinus rhythm and electrode position. This was an extremely valuable experience, as it furthered my understanding of scientific research and its processes. I also gained insight into veterinary medicine and the many possibilities within this career through the SLRP program at OVC, my experiences and through discussions with my supervisor and fellow students. This was extremely beneficial, as this is my desired career path. I helped with the TVEC procedure and visited a farm and a racetrack, where I learned about the practical application of my research. I have created a scientific poster through the SLRP program and am now writing a paper. The PRA program and my President’s Scholarship mentor, Dean Stone, helped me find a supervisor, and I am very grateful for this. The knowledge and experience I gained this summer will be invaluable.


Peter Physick-Sheard
Population Medicine
OVCS Rm:2532
519-824-4120 x54053

Dima Saab

My research project this summer studied the effects of estrogen on learning and memory. I participated in many facets of the study, from laboratory work to statistical analysis. I learned what scientific research entails and how projects evolve from the initial conception to the final results. What I found particularly interesting about this project is that it sits at the interface between biomedical sciences and psychology. While reflecting upon my summer research experience, I remembered a quotation by Plutarch from my high school graduation ceremony: The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled. In terms of experiences that absolutely “kindle the mind," I strongly recommend seeking a research assistantship.


Neil MacLusky
Biomedical Sciences
OVCE Rm:2633
519-824-4120 x54700

Elena Choleris
519-824-4120 x52729

Anna Phan (master’s student),
Department of Biomedical Sciences; 

Alex Liebich

This past summer, I worked with Renee Worringer, professor of Middle Eastern studies and Islamic history at U of G. I started with a lot of background reading on the Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey) as well as preliminary research on the Armenian genocide of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. The genocide remains a significant issue for both Armenians and Turks. Turkey denies having instigated the massacre despite ever-increasing evidence that the Armenian people were deported, starved and murdered en masse. I searched publishers’ websites and book lists for resources for the Middle Eastern/Islamic studies section of the library. I also watched several documentaries on the Armenian genocide and read about it in books, journals and newspapers. In my main project at the end of the summer, I helped Prof. Worringer with a section of her dissertation on racial theory and thought in Europe from the seventeenth century onward. This involved reading works by Darwin, Spencer, Le Bon, Comte, Demolins and others, and then preparing annotated bibliographies to isolate the most important and relevant excerpts of these writers' ideas.


Renee Worringer
MCKNEXT Rm: 1004
519-824-4120 x52442