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SickKids Summer Research Program

Summer program positions

Christoph Licht (Cell Biology)

Thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA) is a disease, in which blood clots block small blood vessels. Atypical hemolytic-uremic syndrome (aHUS) is a form of TMA, caused by defects in the immune system that affects the kidneys. Available treatments are dialysis or kidney transplants, but even transplantation is not a guaranteed cure, because the disease can recur in the graft. aHUS eventually leads to clot formation in multiple organs and death. 

We need new treatment approaches for aHUS, which will require a better understanding of how this disease develops.  Factors that predispose to the development of aHUS include genetic mutations that interfere with the normal function of the immune complement system (50%). The commonest factors that trigger aHUS are infections (>60%). How these "predispositions" and "triggers" combine to produce aHUS is not well understood. We also do not understand the cause for this disease in the rest of the patients. Our new idea is that a type of immune blood cells, called neutrophils, is altered in these patients. Neutrophils can form neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). These toxic traps, akin to fishnets, can damage the inner lining of the blood vessels and promote blood clot formation. Our goal is to understand the combined effect of NETs and complement in triggering and worsening aHUS. 

These studies are important, as current treatments that are directed to stop complement problems are way too expensive for most patients. We also propose to identify new genetic mutations to improve the diagnosis of aHUS and treatment options.  Our research group has a longstanding interest in understanding what controls the actions of complement and NETs, pioneering treatments for aHUS, and identifying disease-associated mutations. This project holds great promise for advancing the understanding of aHUS and of other diseases involving the immune system and blood clots.  

How to apply: 
Email: kwame Diko (kwame.diko@sickkids.ca)

Cynthia Hawkins (Cell Biology)

Characterizing and validating K27M transcriptome (MO3.13 and NSCs inducible)

Histone 3 mutations at lysine 27 (H3K27M) are frequent drivers of midline gliomagenesis, occurring in ~80% of diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG), likely mediating their effect through widespread changes in H3K27 trimethylation. To investigate H3.3K27M-driven effects on malignant transformation/tumor initiation we created a cell culture model in which H3.3K27M is expressed in oligodendrocyte precursors (MO3.13 cells) and neuronal stem cells (ReNcell). 

Using RNA seq this project will investigate if the expression of H3.3K27M induces a specific transcriptional signature and if this signature is shared with human DIPG. The expression of H3.3K27M will be under the control of an inducible promoter that will allow us to determine if induced changes are dependent on continuous H3.3K27M expression. Results from this study warrant to expand the array of potential DIPG targets and determine if targeting histone mutant itself is a rational approach.

The student participating in this project will learn how to use software applications to characterize physiologic vital signs and neuroimaging abnormalities.

How to apply: 
Email: Cynthia Hawkins (cynthia.hawkins@sickkids.ca)

Julie Brill (Cell Biology)

The student will conduct research aimed at understanding molecular and cellular mechanisms that control sperm development in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Possible projects include (1) following up on genes we have identified that are involved in phosphatidylinositol lipid signaling, and (2) examining post-transcriptional regulation. The student will learn aspects of Drosophila molecular genetics and cell and developmental biology.

How to apply:
Email: Julie Brill (julie.brill@sickkids.ca)

*Please include a cover letter briefly describing your academic background, your previous research experience (if any), your interest in the project, and your career goals.

Michael Zappitelli (Cell Biology)

My research is on acute kidney injury (AKI) in children. AKI mostly occurs in hospitalized patients and must be better understood in order to detect the disease earlier, lessen the most serious risks and improve patients' long-term health. Our clinical research laboratory is characterizing this disease by evaluating definitions and performing studies to assess the effect of AKI on various outcomes in several diagnostic populations. Included are patients on nephrotoxic medications, patients undergoing cardiac surgery and critically ill patients.   

In the Western world, between 2-6 of every 1000 newborns are born with small kidneys and/or defects of the lower urinary tract- the compilation of diseases known as Congenital Anomalies of Kidney and Urinary Tract (CAKUT). In the most severe cases, kidneys are not formed at all; this condition is not viable. Even the milder congenital (developmental) defects are associated with progressive loss of kidney function, necessitating renal transplantations or urological surgeries. 

In Canada, the serious consequences of renal birth defects have doubled over the last 10 years. In order to understand the basis for these defects, it is important to decipher the molecular programs which regulate development of the kidneys and lower urinary tract.

How to apply:    
Email: Jasmine Lee (jasmine.lee@sickkids.ca)

Andrew Howard (Child Health Evaluative Sciences)

The program of public health research the student will be working on is entitled CHASE- Child Active Transportation Safety and the Environment.  This program examines the associations between active school transportation, child pedestrian collisions and the built environment in urban/suburban centres across Canada and involves researchers, policy makers and knowledge users. The summer student will assist the Research Coordinator in the organization and implementation of two studies

Study 1: Large observational study at schools throughout the City of Toronto and potentially Peel region (April, as soon as available- June, 2018).  
Study 2: Case-crossover study of bicycling collisions attending the Emergency Room at the Hospital for Sick Children (July, August, 2018).

The students’ responsibilities will include assisting the Research Coordinator with the following tasks:

  • Training, scheduling and supervising several teams of research assistants
  • Assembling and organizing data sets
  • Entering and cleaning data
  • Interviewing principals/school administrators
  • Assist in observational data collection where needed, including schools visits and site surveys

How to apply
Email: Linda Rothman (linda.rothman@sickkids.ca)
*Please submit evidence of experience working with Microsoft office - especially Excel.

Brian Feldman (Child Health Evaluative Sciences)

We are searching for a professional, charismatic, self-starter who will help recruit patients to participate in one of our clinical research projects.  This individual will be also be responsible for analyzing the data and presenting their findings at the end of the summer.

How to apply: 
Applicants must apply following the instructions on the Division of Rheumatology's Summer Student Website: 

Due to the volume of applicants, incomplete or late applications will not be considered.  Good luck to all applicants!

Martin Offringa (Child Health Evaluative Sciences)

Students will be involved in systematic reviews across diverse disease areas. The objective of these reviews will be to assess outcome reporting in clinical trials. This project will expose students to the complexities surrounding outcome selection, measurement, and reporting in clinical trials.

How to apply: 
Email: Emma Mew (emma.mew@sickkids.ca)

Samantha Anthony (Child Health Evaluative Sciences)

Dr. Anthony's research program seeks to improve health outcomes following pediatric solid organ transplantation. Dr. Anthony has two priority research goals: 1) to investigate ways to efficiently and consistently incorporate Patient-Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) instruments into clinical practice, and 2) to investigate the feasibility of an iPeer2Peer support program on health outcomes of adolescent transplant patients.

How to apply: 
Email: Samantha Anthony (samantha.anthony@sickkids.ca)
Telephone: 416-813-5979

Stanley Zlotkin (Child Health Evaluative Sciences)

Using a data base of anthropometric data for infants from Bangladesh, this project will evaluate catch up growth in infants born small for gestational age (SGA). Students applying must have knowledge and some experience with methods of statistical analysis of large data sets.

How to apply: 
Email: Stanley Zlotkin (stanley.zlotkin@sickkids.ca)

*In addition to the required application materials, please provide information on courses you have taken in statistics and any experience in working with large data sets.

Unni Narayanan (Child Health Evaluative Sciences)

Students will be involved in one of two projects both evaluating patient reported outcome measures developed by Dr. Narayanan and his team.   One measure evaluates upper and lower extremity fracture healing while the other examines lower limb deformity. Students will have the opportunity to see many areas of the research process from recruiting patients (and their families) being treated for these conditions in the Orthopaedic clinic to subsequently performing statistical analysis to evaluate the questionnaires.

How to apply: 
Email: Ashley Ferkul (ashley.ferkul@sickkids.ca

Norman Rosenblum (Developmental & Stem Cell Biology)

The summer student will be engaged in our research on how signaling pathways control formation of the normal and malformed kidney. Malformation of the kidney is the major cause of childhood renal failure. In this project, the specific focus will be on the Hedgehog signaling pathway. The student will analyze kidney tissue derived from mice with mutations in components of the Hedgehog pathway. Mutant phenotypes will be interrogated at the molecular level in tissue and in cells. Supervision will be provided by Dr. Rosenblum and by a senior trainee in the Rosenblum lab.

How to apply: 
Email: Norman Rosenblum (norman.rosenblum@sickkids.ca)
Telephone: 416-813-5667

*CV should include details of prior research

Yun Li (Developmental & Stem Cell Biology)

We seek highly motivated and experienced undergraduate students to participate in ongoing research projects on novel human pluripotent stem cell models of autism spectrum disorders.  The Li lab at SickKids is interested in understanding how the human brain forms, what makes it unique from that of other species, and how disorders like autism impact its development and function. We use a combination of stem cell technology, genome editing and 3-dimensional organoid cultures to model human brain development and disorders in a dish. Our previous work include studying Rett Syndrome in human neurons derived from genome-edited stem cells (Li et al. Cell Stem Cell 2013, 13, 446-458), and creating 3-dimensional brain organoids ("mini-brain") with complex structure and human-specific features (Li et al. Cell Stem Cell 2017, 20, 385-396).  Our current research project on autism will utilize CRISPR/Cas technology to create new human stem cell lines with disease-relevant mutations, and 3-dimensional differentiations to generate brain organoids. We will carry out phenotypic characterization to identify disease-specific changes that could inform us on the nature of neural dysfunction in autism, and may form the basis of future therapeutic discoveries.

How to apply:
Email: Katie Jackson (katie.jackson@sickkids.ca)

Elise Heon (Genetics & Genome Biology)

This project will involve the study of cases affected with inherited retinal disease using bioinformatics analysis of whole genome sequencing. The candidate will learn to look for pathogenic variants using a number of bioinformatics tools, and the subsequent variant validation and family segregation by PCR, Sanger sequence, restriction enzyme digest. The student will be exposed to R coding, primer design, PCR, electrophoresis; assessment of variants using databases (gnomAD, ExAc, 1000 genomes, PolyPhen, sift, among others). 

Some projects might require functional validation involving cloning, cell line work western blotting. In addition the candidate will be exposed to the vocabulary surrounding diseases and what defines a phenotype. Candidates are expected to know how to review the literature on a topic on their own be an active learner, team player and have high ethics. Candidates with relevant experience will be favoured.

Please mention any relevant past experience, and send a one page long resume.

How to apply
Email: Erika Tavares (erika.tavares@sickkids.ca)

James Dowling (Genetics & Genome Biology)

Nemaline myopathy is childhood muscle disease that results from abnormal structure and function of the sarcomere. There are currently no treatments for this devastating disease. In an effort to identify and translate therapies, we have developed a novel experimental pipeline that uses zebrafish, cell and mouse models. SSuRe summer students will work on projects related exciting new treatments as part of this overall program of study.

How to apply: 
Email: James Dowling (james.dowling@sickkids.ca)

Lisa Strug (Genetics & Genome Biology)

*Please note: Dr. Strug is hiring for two separate projects

Project 1: The project will involve reviewing long and linked-read next generation sequence data from individuals with cystic fibrosis and determining whether the mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator were called and are discernable in the data.

Project 2: This project will involve the construction of a computational pipeline to create a hybrid assembly using long and linked-read next generation sequencing technologies. The specific aim is to take two genome assemblies and merge them into a single consistent assembly, leveraging the best characteristics from both sequencing technologies.

How to apply: 
Email: Nusheen Rostayee (nusheen.rostayee@sickkids.ca)

John Parkinson (Molecular Medicine)

We are currently analysing stool samples from patients suffering from malnutrition to study pathogen-microbiome interactions. The students will work on analysing microbiome datasets to identify communities of microbes that correlate with the presence and absence of pathogens.
Students should be proficient in scripting/programming (python, java, c).

How to apply:
Email: John Parkinson (jparkin@sickkids.ca)

John Rubinstein (Molecular Medicine)

The selected student will use advanced methods in electron cryomicroscopy to study the structure and function of large membrane protein complexes involved in human health.

How to apply:
Email: John Rubinstein (jlr@sickkids.ca)

Roman Melnyk (Molecular Medicine)

The student will be involved in a project that involves developing novel protein-based therapeutics that inhibit important intracellular cancer targets. The project involves protein engineering, molecular biology, cell biology and structural biology.

How to apply: 
Email: Roman Melnyk (roman.melnyk@sickkids.ca)

E. Ann Yeh (Neurosciences & Mental Health)

Children with MS suffer from progressive cognitive decline and are highly likely to suffer from depression and fatigue.  In our previous research, we have demonstrated low levels of physical activity and relationships between physical activity (PA) and brain health.  In this summer project, the student will become involved in any of a number of projects focusing on PA and demyelinating disorders/MS, including (1) a pilot clinical trial of an app-based intervention; (2) observational studies of the relationship between PA and brain structures; and (3) evaluations of relationships between PA, sleep and symptoms/disease activity.

How to apply: 
Email: Stephanie Grover (stephanie.grover@sickkids.ca)

George Ibrahim (Neurosciences & Mental Health)

Our lab primarily uses digital signal processing/network analysis/connectivity tools.  We use noninvasive (fMRI/MEG/DTI) and invasive (intracranial recording) data from children with epilepsy. You will require experience in coding or data analysis.

How to apply
Email: Seetha Sriharan (seetha.sriharan@sickkids.ca)

James Drake (Neurosciences & Mental Health)

We are looking to recruit a student from engineering, physics, computer science, mathematics, or a related field to work in a biomedical engineering lab that is focused image-guided surgery technology. Our project themes include medical robotics, 3D printing, focused ultrasound therapy, magnetic resonance imaging, and image processing.

How to apply: 
Email: Adam Waspe (adam.waspe@sickkids.ca)
Telephone: 416-813-7654, ext. 304652

*In addition to the required application and resume, a concise cover letter (1 page Max) that outlines learning goals, scientific interests and skills/strengths, would be welcome.

Julien Muffat (Neurosciences & Mental Health)

We seek highly motivated and experienced undergraduate students to participate in ongoing research projects on the interaction of neurons and glia in normal and pathological function of the brain, in particular interaction between the nervous system and its resident immune cells, microglia. Immune involvement in diseases such as Alzheimer's is emerging as a pressing focus of investigation. The student will have the opportunity to participate in state-of-the-art molecular cloning projects, generating tools to manipulate expression of disease-relevant genes in human induced pluripotent stem cells using CRISPR/Cas9. This will form the basis for in vitro models of neurodegeneration, as pluripotent cells will be coaxed to differentiate into nerve and immune.

How to apply:
Email: Katie Jackson (katie.jackson@sickkids.ca)

Brian Nieman (Translational Medicine) 

Children treated for cancer often experience side effects months or years later that affect attention, processing, learning and memory. We are investigating the impact of radiation and chemotherapy on brain development to understand these effects using a combination of clinical data and mouse models. The student will work on a project investigating mechanism or testing interventions to improve the brain development outcomes. The work will provide the opportunity to gain experience with mouse handling, magnetic resonance imaging, image processing and/or statistical analysis.

How to apply: 
Email: Brian Nieman (nieman.ssure@sickkids.ca)

Emilie Jean-St-Michel and Aamir Jeewa (Translational Medicine)

Our research project is entitled: Historical outcomes of paediatric heart failure at SickKids hospital. Our objective is to improve understanding on risk factors associated with morbidities and mortality in paediatric heart failure in order to promote development of etiology-specific prevention and treatment strategies. We are conducting a longitudinal cohort study including all children with ventricular dysfunction, heart failure or cardiomyopathy seen at SickKids between 2001 (beginning of electronic medical record) and 2017. The data is extracted mainly via chart review using the REDCap platform.

How to apply
Email: Aamir Jeewa (aamir.jeewa@sickkids.ca)

Farid Mahmud (Translational Medicine)

Evaluation of Social Factors and Autoimmune Comorbidities as Part of a Large Adolescent Diabetes Trial

The Adolescent Diabetes Cardio-renal Intervention Trial (AdDIT) is a landmark clinical intervention and observational study evaluating participants from adolescence into young adulthood for risk and progression of diabetes related complications. As part of this large study, we are seeking to better understand the implications of the findings from the AdDIT study in the broader T1D population. Specifically, it is important to consider the Social Determinants of Health and the 'representativeness' of the patient cohorts assessed during all phases of the trial, from recruitment to inclusion and retention. 

As a large, multicentre trial with sites dispersed across three continents, AdDIT had a diverse study population, yet little is known about the distribution of socioeconomic backgrounds as well as baseline autoimmune status in the   investigated subjects at each site and, secondarily, how they compare to the populations from which they were sampled.  By expanding the scope of our assessment to include screening and RCT populations from AdDIT sites in Australian and the UK, we will further characterize a well-studied clinical cohort of adolescent subjects with type 1 diabetes. This information will provide further insight into the clinical findings from the trial and augment the external validity of conclusions drawn from the trial's data.    

How to apply:
Email:Harriet Georgas (harriet.georgas@sickkids.ca)
Telephone: 416-813-8407

Hoon-Ki Sung (Translational Medicine)

Project: Molecular mechanism of intermittent fasting mediated cardiometabolic benefits.

How to apply: 
Email: Josh Mustafa (josh.mustafa@sickkids.ca)

Mail: Attn: Hoon-Ki Sung, Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, 686 Bay Street, Room 10.9710 Toronto, ON M5G 0A4