Three undergraduate students from Mount Saint Vincent University recently received Scotia Scholars Awards from Research Nova Scotia, valued up to $6,250 each, in support of their research projects.

The Scotia Scholars Award provides financial support to research trainees with exceptional potential who are engaged in health research at participating Nova Scotia institutions.

This award supports the growth, acquisition, and retention of highly skilled individuals who are advancing and translating knowledge in disease detection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention; strengthening health care delivery systems; caring for vulnerable populations; and promoting better opportunities for future health and wellbeing. Funding for this award is provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.

Congratulations to MSVU’s 2023/24 undergraduate Scotia Scholars Award recipients!

Gabrielle Fenwick, Biology Gabrielle Fenwick, in a black shirt smiling for a selfie
Project: Impact of assembly factor for spindle microtubules (ASPM) expression on cell cycle timing and recovery after mitotic surveillance pathway activation.
Explanation: The cell cycle is the process of growth and division that allows cells in the body to replicate. To progress through this cycle, cells must pass through various quality control checkpoints. In cancer cells, these checkpoints are often defective, allowing the cancer to continue growing unchecked. A gene called ASPM (Assembly Factor for Spindle Microtubules) is commonly over-expressed in cancer cells, suggesting that it may play a role in the disease. This project will investigate how overexpression of ASPM may alter timing of the cell cycle, and by doing so allow cells to evade certain cell cycle checkpoints and replicate unchecked. The data generated may provide new insight into the progression of cancer, or even new avenues for future drug development.
Supervisor: Dr. Lori Borgal

Kennedy Hackett, in a black dress.Kennedy Hackett, Psychology
Project: Characterizing the Neural Profiles of Bipolar Disorder with and without Auditory Hallucinations
Explanation: Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by intense shifts in mood that impair an individual’s ability to function, affecting approximately 2% of people. About a third of people with bipolar disorder also experience auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices when there are no external sounds. When compared to those who do not hear voices, people who do report hearing voices also struggle more with daily living and are less likely to recover.While there is existing research on the effects of auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia, they are currently under-researched in bipolar disorder. This project will examine how hallucinations impact the brain and how auditory hallucinations can influence functioning, quality of life, and suicide risk in those with bipolar disorder.
Supervisor: Dr. Derek Fisher

Natalie Lawy, sitting in a yellow chair smiling for the cameraNatalie Lawy, Psychology
Project: Actually Autistic at School: Giving Voice to #ActuallyAutistic Experiences of School Inclusion
Explanation: Autistic students are at risk for poor outcomes at school, and teachers in Nova Scotia feel they lack the training and tools to adequately support autistic students in their classrooms. Autistic students feel the same way, identifying school staff’s poor understanding of autism as a significant barrier to their inclusion and participation. Very little data has been collected directly from autistic students in Canada about their school experiences and no data has been collected in Nova Scotia to date. The present study, conducted by an autistic researcher, uses semi-structured interviews incorporating novel interview methodology to support inclusion and accessibility for autistic participants. Reflexive thematic analysis is used to identify how autistic students describe their experience of inclusion at school.
Supervisor: Dr. Conor Barker