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Coquitlam student wins national science award
A Charles Best student who explored one of the the coldest regions on the planet in an environmental expedition to Antarctica last year is now exploring the world of molecular biology.
Selin Jessa, a Grade 12 student, is off to Chicago later this month to compete for the top prize in the 20th annual Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge after winning second prize in a Canadian competition today, Tuesday.
The soon-to-be grad said she was thrilled with the win today although nervous to explain her work with HIV proteins before a group of scientists and other professionals.
"I'm really excited I think I only stopped shaking a little while ago, I'm excited to go and present my research, and meet other young scientists," Jessa told the News from Ottawa where she just received her award.
Jessa's project involved university graduate level research complexity, says mentor Dr. Zabrina Brumme, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, who oversaw her work.
Jessa engineered a mutant version of an HIV protein, allowing her to learn and apply various techniques in molecular biology including molecular cloning, DNA sequencing, cell culture and flow cytometry. According to Dr. Brumme, Jessa’s study could be used in future publications from her lab to contribute to greater understanding of the HIV virus.
The work entailed hundreds of hours in the lab and other research.
For Jessa, the competition was an exciting experience that could lead to her future career. "I think this competition has definitely solidified for me that I would really enjoy a career in science, and particularly in research."
It was last January's expedition to Antarcitica as part of the Students on Ice Antarctic Youth Expedition that sparked her interest in science. Watching other scientists and researchers at work on the trip, Jessa got the science bug but it's her work raising funds for a school in Kenya at Dr. Charles Best that spurred her interest in HIV research. "I'm interested in learning about things from other perspectives," Jessa said.
Her 15-minute presentation wowed the judges today, placing her just second in a large field, that included the first place winner's study of cancer cells. To get to the national competition she had to win at the provincial level, which she did last week.
Jessa said she enjoyed working at SFU over the past several months since joining the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge, noting that B.C. is a hotbed of HIV research.