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About Sickkids
About SickKids

July 23, 2008

Next generation of scientists in training at SickKids

Last year, third-year science student Stephanie Taillefer's summer job was filing medical records in a dark, windowless basement in Barrie . “It was mind-numbing work,” she says, “and it gave me paper cuts.”

This summer, in stark contrast, Stephanie is working in Dr. Paul Arnold's Genetics and Genome Biology Lab at SickKids, researching the neurotransmitters involved in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her goal is to help find new treatments for the one-third of people with this disorder who don't respond to existing medications.

She says she's learned more this summer than she has in all her time in school so far. “It's thrilling and I'm honoured to have been chosen for this program.”

Taillefer is one of 132 students working with the SickKids Summer Research (SsuRe) Program this year. The 12-week program began in 1978 and runs from May to July, providing opportunities for university students to conduct research in a laboratory/clinical setting at SickKids under the supervision of Research Institute scientists. Many of these students go on to medical school, graduate school or other health-related professions. Taillefer is one of five top students chosen to present her work orally at SsuRe's grand finale symposium day on July 24.

John Brumell, a scientist in the Cell Biology program at the SickKids Research Institute and chair of SsuRe, says that getting accepted into SsuRe is very competitive.

“Our program is one of the biggest undergraduate programs around and we're flooded with thousands of applications every year,” Brumell says. “It is popular because we recognize that students can make a significant contribution to scientific research.”

Sometimes those contributions happen while the students are in the SsuRe program. SsuRe summer students have made valuable contributions in:

  • the understanding of genetic mutations involved in sudden death in young adults due to a genetic form of heart disease
  • the identification of genes implicated in autism
  • genetic factors involved in obesity
  • looking at the origins of medulloblastoma, a childhood brain tumour
  • studying how bacterial toxins alter human cells during infection

Dr. Brumell says the hospital benefits as much as the students. “They are totally immersed in what they are doing and they bring a fresh eye to what we are working on. Sometimes one question from a student can open a whole new avenue to solving a fundamental science problem.”

Applications for the 2009 SSuRe program will be available on our website in December 2008.

For more information, visit the Research Training Centre .

For more information, please contact:

Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Suite 1742, Public Affairs, First floor Atrium
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8
Phone: 416-813-5058
Fax: 416-813-5328