Britney Feng, winner of the Saskatchewan edition of the 2019 Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition. (Photo: Sanofi Biogenius Canada)

Young researchers earn top marks at USask science competition

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) recently hosted the Saskatchewan edition of the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition, a national science research competition that pairs high school students with academic mentors to pursue real-world projects.

By Brett Makulowich
The winner of the April 4 regional competition was Britney Feng, a Grade 12 student at Centennial Collegiate, whose project analyzed the potential of 3D bioprinting to assist in the regeneration of nerve tissue. For placing first, Feng received $2,500. She will go on to compete in the national Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition this May in Toronto. The winner of the national competition receives $5,000 and proceeds to the international competition in Philadelphia.

This was Feng’s fifth year taking part in the competition. Her projects have ranged from fighting crop disease, to nutrition, to preventative aspects of poor health, to analyzing potential solutions to make health care more accessible.

“The part I love the most about research is that there is no limit to the learning that takes place,” said Feng. “Research is tailored to fit your passion and interests, but it also allows you to discover a lot about what you love to do and who you might be in years ahead.”

Feng received project support from Dr. Ning Zhu (PhD), an associate scientist at the Canadian Light Source, and Dr. Daniel Chen (PhD), a professor for the College of Engineering.

“It is important to get young people interested in research before they start university,” said Zhu.

“When students start to be attracted to research work, it can become a strong motivation for their studies,” added Chen.

Aden Bowman Collegiate Grade 10 student Aunum Abid won second place and $1,500 at the regional competition for her project, Investigating the Effects of p63 in Mouse and Frog Towards Explaining Human Birth Defects.

Jocelyn Pon and Affaan Abid tied for third place and both received $1,000. Pon, a Grade 10 student at Centennial Collegiate, focused her research on analyzing and comparing the energy potential of biofuels using residue from barley, canola, pea and wheat crops. Abid, a Grade 8 student at Montgomery School, researched the potential health advantages of seabuckthorn, an emerging superfruit on the Prairies.

The Saskatchewan competition was the first in Canada to award the inaugural Aspiring Researcher Award for up-and-coming participants. Dishita Emayavaramban, a Grade 8 student at Greystone Heights School, won $250 for her research on how to save bees from extinction.

USask Vice-President Research Karen Chad said the university is proud to host the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition and these young scientists.

“This competition cultivates curiosity among talented young scientists and demonstrates the real-world importance of research,” said Chad. “The experience can be life-changing and career-shaping for students. The sky’s the limit in terms of where this might take a student.”