Graduate Symposium

The annual Biology Graduate Symposium (BGS) brings together a diverse breadth of exciting research taking place in the Department of Biology.

The BGS provides an opportunity for graduate and post-doctoral trainees from the natural and health sciences to showcase, discuss, and celebrate their research with other students, faculty, and staff. This poster symposium prepares both junior and senior trainees for conferences by encouraging communication and networking skills under a laid-back and intimate setting.

Biology Graduate Symposium

May 3 and May 4, 2021,  9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. PST
Online Virtual Event, All are welcome to attend

Presentations will be conducted in a Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) style. One student from each presentation session will be awarded a prize for the best talk. There will be faculty and student networking opportunities after the event, please join us!

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Judging Criteria

  1. How well did the presentation provide the necessary background information to the research question and its significance?
  2. How clear was the presentation’s description of the key results, conclusions, and outcomes of the research?
  3. How appropriate was the language used to explain the topic, key results, significance, and outcomes of the research to a non-specialist audience?
  4. How well-organized was the presentation in terms of the clarity and logic of the presentation order and the amount of time spent on each topic?
  1. How well did the presenter hold your attention and make you want to know more about the research?
  2. How well did the presenter balance the explanation of the research done with the need to communicate it to a non-specialist audience?
  3. How engaging was the presenter in their enthusiasm for their research and in their presentation of the information?
  4. How effective was the Powerpoint slide in enhancing the presentation of the research?

More information on Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) formatting and criteria can be found on the College of Graduate Studies website.

Judge Profiles

Mehdi SharifiDr. Mehdi Sharifi
Research Scientist – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Mehdi Sharifi is working as a soil nutrient management research scientist at Summerland Research and Development Centre since 2016. Before moving to Okanagan’s, he was a professor at Trent University and before that a professor at Dalhousie University. He completed a two-year postdoctoral fellow position at Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada and a three-year Postdoctoral fellow position at Fredericton Research and Development Centre. Dr. Sharifi’s research activities are focused on enhancing the environmental sustainability and resilience of perennial horticultural crops through ground cover management and use of organic amendments. His interests extend to propagation and ethno-agronomy of Indigenous food plants.

Thu-Thuy_DangDr. Thu-Thuy Dang
Assistant Professor – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry

Dr. Dang’s work focuses on discovering new biosynthetic enzymes and pathways that contribute to the diversity of plants specialized metabolism. Her labs immediate focus is on medicinal alkaloids, of which many constitute the essential ingredients of traditional medicine worldwide. They utilize available, and/or generate new, RNA-seq and genome data of medicinal plants to investigate their metabolism with a suite of analytical, biochemical, bioinformatic and molecular genetic approaches. Their long-term goal is to deliver biotechnologies that produce and/or customize high-value phytochemicals. These will allow sustainable alternatives complementing chemical extraction from plants or synthesis from petrochemicals.

Wesley ZandbergDr. Wesley Zandberg
Assistant Professor – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry

Dr. Zandberg’s work is in the field of analytical glycobiology: the use of modern instrumental techniques to study carbohydrates, their oligomers (glycans) and their metabolism. He is working to develop new methods to investigate carbohydrates. Dr. Zandberg uses chemical and analytical tools to investigate the functions of protein-linked glycans in cells and animals.

Wesley ZandbergDr. Karen Perry
Associate Professor & Acting Department Head, Chemistry

Dr. Perry holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia. She teaches environmental and analytical chemistry. Her research focuses on Geochemical oceanography and limnology, mineralization of organic matter, and saline lakes.

Sepideh_PakpourDr. Sepideh Pakpour
Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Pakpour’s research interest is to better understand forces and factors influencing the human microbiome. She is also interested in how microorganisms interact with their environment, with each other, and with their host. As well, she has also continuously focused on translating basic microbiome discoveries into applications ranging from bioengineering and biomaterials to medicine. Dr. Pakpour is also the microbiome research lead in the Nurse Engagement and Wellness Study (NEWS) as part of the Hoffman Program on Chemicals at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as well as the lead of Human Virus Project at MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics. Her background and broad expertise in microbiome science, omic technologies and advanced bioinformatics have allowed her to establish the Biomedical Microbiome Research (BMR) laboratory at UBC focusing on advancing microbiome science in health and disease.

Wesley ZandbergDr. Melanie Jones
Professor, Biology

Dr. Jones’s research interests include the influence of ectomycorrhizae and ericoid mycorrhizae on nutrient uptake and carbon allocation by woody plants. Since 1991, she has studied the effect of various forestry practises on the diversity of ectomycorrhizal fungi in BC forests. Members of her lab are currently working on the contribution of ectomycorrhizal fungi to soil nutrient cycling, factors that influence nutrient distribution within mycorrhizal networks, the contribution of soil carbon to the carbon budget of mycorrhizal fungi, and soil carbon dynamics in orchard soils.

Nathan PelletierDr. Nathan Pelletier
Assistant Professor – Biology, Faculty of Management

Dr. Pelletier currently holds the NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability. His areas of research interest include the theory and practical application of ecological economic instruments in bio-economy (food, feed, and biomass) sustainability measurement, management and communication initiatives. His work contributes to the development of methodological frameworks for evaluation and management of the scale, resource efficiency, and social dimensions of sustainability – in particular, life cycle-based product and organization-level accountancy tools for supply chain sustainability management. Specific areas of interest include climate change, energy use, reactive nitrogen, food security, social licence, and market access.

Paul ShipleyDr. Paul Shipley
Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry

Dr. Shipley’s lab focuses on describing the chemistry of medicinal plants and bacteria to investigate the chemical differences between species and samples. This is used to discover biological activities, optimize natural health product formulation, identify adulterated products, and classify species by their chemistry. Dr. Shipley’s work also included biosynthesis of natural products and rational modification of biosynthetic pathways in bacteria to produce novel compounds with the potential to be pharmacologically relevant.

Andis KlegerisDr. Andis Klegeris
Professor, Biology

Dr. Klegeris’ work focuses on neuroimmunology including the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Dr. Klegeris’ research includes Glial cell biology and cellular and molecular pharmacology. He is also working on developing methods for protecting neurons from age-related deterioration. His research includes signaling between different cell types of the central nervous system and problem-solving skills of students and effectiveness of alternative instructional techniques.

Sanjay GhoshDr. Sanjoy Ghosh
Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

After arriving from India in 2000, Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh received his Masters (2003) and PhD (2006) from the University of British Columbia where he studied the effect of diet and exercise in animal models of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes. His groundbreaking work on dietary fats and heart disease from his Masters thesis got international recognition with an award from Nestle and the European Society for Parenteral Nutrition in 2005. Subsequently, he has won multiple doctoral and postdoctoral research awards from national and provincial agencies like Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC) and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (CIHR). In 2008, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) ranked him second among all biomedical research fellows in Canada in their annual competition. In 2010, he was awarded the Scholar award, the only such award conferred nationwide by the CDA. Subsequently, he started his tenure as an Assistant Professor at UBC-Okanagan in July 2010. Dr. Ghosh is currently a peer reviewer for several international journals and is on the scientific organizing committee for two national and international meetings. He has published over 45 referred journal articles and several book chapters till date.

Dan DurallDr. Dan Durall
Associate Professor, Biology

Dan completed his PhD in Terrestrial Ecology at the University of Calgary. He has had post-doctoral research positions at the University of Calgary, USDA Forest Service in Riverside, California, Oregon State University, and at the University of Oxford in England. He has been a Biology professor and Research Associate at Okanagan University College/UBC Okanagan since 1990. His teaching and research interests are in forest mycorrhizal ecology. His specific research interests are concerned with the role of mycorrhizal fungi in carbon and nutrient cycling as well as the effect of forest practices on mycorrhizal fungal populations and communities.

In the past 17 years, Dan’s research program has been funded by RFBC, BC Science Council, BC Ministry of Forests, Canadian Forest Service, NSERC, CFI, UBC Internal Research Grants Program and the Forest Science Program. Dan presently supervises four graduate students, 2 technicians, and 2 undergraduate thesis/directed studies students. Dan recently headed a 2.2 million CFI/BCKDF/UBCO grant for the Centre for Species at Risk and Habitat Studies (SARAHS) of which he is presently director. In addition to his research interests, he manages the Fragment Analysis and DNA Sequencing Services (FADSS) at UBC Okanagan, teaches microbiology related courses and oversees the new Microbiology degree at UBC Okanagan.

Kirk BergstromDr. Kirk Bergstrom
Assistant Professor, Biology

Regulation of host-microbiota symbiosis by intestinal mucin-type O-glycosylation. My field of interest is focused on mechanisms of innate immunity in the gastrointestinal tract that promote protective responses against pathogens, while preventing unwanted inflammatory responses to our resident microbiota. To study this, I employ a repertoire of specialized skills to probe host-microbiota interactions in disease causation at the organismal, tissue, cellular and molecular level, including functional analysis of mucins and glycan biology, gut ecology; and state-of-the-art imaging and genetic modeling. My independent studies build directly on this work, where I am addressing how the expression and activity of Core 1- and 3- synthases are controlled in humans and preclinical murine model systems; how mucin-type O-glycans impact the structure and function of microbial communities in the gut, and how O-glycans regulate formation and function of the intestinal mucus system. The goals of this work aim to increase our knowledge of the fundamental roles of mucins and their O-glycans in the gut, and devise novel methods of intervention to boost their protective capacities in IBD and cancer patients where defects in these systems are thought to contribute to pathogenesis.

More information on Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) formatting and criteria can be found on the College of Graduate Studies website.


Thank you to all who participated in past symposia.

Ariel photo of the 2019 Biology Graduate Symposium

Biology Graduate Symposium 2019 Participants