"As a research communication competition, the 3MT® is a demonstration and reminder of how all research connects with and has implications for, society at large.”
 Dr. Mavis Reimer, Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies
University of Winnipeg
(Host of the 2022 Western Regionals)

People's choice



Meet the competitors and
find out what
their research is about.

Farm animals, in particular cows, are plagued by constant attacks by blood-feeding stable flies. Repeated bites from flies leads to both lower weight gain and milk production and more importantly, causes severe pain for inflicted cows. Exactly how flies locate cows however remains almost a complete mystery. In my thesis, I investigated whether microbes residing on cow skin are releasing chemicals that stable flies are “smelling” to track down cows. To do this, I collected swab samples from cow skin and used molecular biology techniques, including PCR, to identify over 40 different microbial species from the resulting samples. I then presented each species of microbe to groups of flies along with a control to see if any would be attractive to the flies, eventually finding one which attracted nearly 10 times as many flies as the control. A microbe isolated from cow skin being attractive to stable flies suggests that this may be a method by which flies track down cows when searching for a meal. Future work will be conducted to determine which specific chemicals being released by the microbe are particularly enticing for the flies, information which can then be used to develop effective stable fly traps.

Gut bacteria have been identified as a major contributory factor in the obesity epidemic. This community of bacteria is vulnerable during infancy and disruption can increase chronic disease risk later in life. Antibiotics are life-saving drugs used against harmful bacteria, but their use in early life can disrupt the normal establishment of infant gut bacteria, increasing the risk of obesity and other diseases. Given that antibiotics are often medically necessary, identification of an intervention that could be given alongside antibiotics to reduce their risk is of great interest. Prebiotics, which are fibres preferentially digested by beneficial gut bacteria, have been shown to reduce body fat, improve appetite regulation and increase beneficial gut bacteria. My research is focused on determining the protective effects and mechanisms of prebiotics within the context of early-life antibiotic exposure. I am especially interested in improving our knowledge of the milk microbiota, the community of bacteria found in breastmilk, and its impact on the development of the infant gut microbiota and subsequent metabolic disorders. My research will further our understanding of how breastmilk composition is affected by maternal factors like drug exposure and diet and may help inform perinatal medical and nutritional practices.

My research aims to understand the interactions between two healthy building foundations: indoor daylight and indoor microbiome. Specifically, I studied the effect of indoor daylight through a newly developed electrochromic smart window on the microbiome within the building. The results of my study can provide important insights for future healthy building design and infectious disease control in all built environments.

There has been an ongoing push for the production of renewable and sustainable alternatives for fossil-derived liquid fuels. Today there are various commercial pathways for producing renewable diesel and gasoline fuels, but processes for the synthesis of renewable aviation fuel is limited. There has been a global push for decarbonizing the aviation sector, including Canada's goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions for the sector by 2050. At the Bressler lab we have developed and patented a method to convert waste fats, such as used restaurant grease and agricultural residues, into a mixture of renewable fuels such as diesel and gasoline. The aim of this research is to upgrade these waste-derived renewable fuels into aviation fuel. This is done by using a catalyst that can alter the shape of the molecules in the renewable fuel, therefore lowering it's freezing point to meet aviation fuel standards. This research will bring us one step closer to the zero-carbon targets for the aviation sector, bolster Canada's capacity in renewable fuels production and provide value to other sectors by utilizing their waste.

Recent studies from the University of Lethbridge have shown that Tactile Stimulation (loving touch) slows the onset of Alzheimer's disease in aging mice. If touch can slow the onset of a fatal disease, I wonder, what else can it do? That's where my research comes in. I want to know if touch can transcend generations? Specifically, I will be looking at how Tactile Stimulation on fathers (Long-Evans rats) prior to conception impacts their babies' brains and behaviours.

Many studies suggest acoustic recording of owls coupled with identification of individuality in vocalizations can be used to monitor populations, though, few explicitly test this potential. We assessed the prospect of identifying Barred Owls (Strix varia) through detections using passive acoustic monitoring. We set up autonomous recording units from Feb. to April 2021 throughout the 15000 ha John Prince Research Forest (54° 27'N, 124° 10'W, 700 m a.s.l), with 3km between the 65 recording stations. During this period, we collected 454 Barred Owl calls from 10 recording stations. We measured 30 song features, 12 temporal features and 18 frequency features, from each song. Using forward stepwise discriminant function analysis, the model correctly identified 84.4% of the songs based on a 5-fold cross validation. The model achieved a Kappa statistic of 0.77, which showed substantial agreement between predicted individual versus observed individual categorization. The most important discriminating features include song length, interval between the 4th and the 5th notes, interval between the 6th and 7th notes, and the duration of the 8th note. Our results suggest that passive acoustic monitoring can be an effective tool for identifying individual Barred Owls and be useful for population censusing.

The intestinal epithelial barrier (IEB) helps digest food, absorb nutrients, and prevents entry of harmful bacteria, pathogens, and toxins into our bloodstream. Located beneath the IEB is a unique group of cells known as enteric glial cells (EGCs). In healthy states, EGCs produce factors that make the IEB stronger, but overexposure to pathogenic bacteria or toxins leads to breakdown of the IEB, which exposes EGCs to these agents. In response, EGCs produce factors that further damage the IEB. Diet is emerging as one of the leading influencers of a healthy gut. Dietary fibres from foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are fermented by our gut bacteria to produce nutrients such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which reinforce the gut barrier. However, how SCFAs affect EGCs, and the resulting indirect effects on the IEB, remain unknown. This study will elucidate how SCFAs, by modifying EGC activity, attenuate IEB disruption. Overall, this will provide insight of EGCs physiological roles, and their potential use for preventing chronic diseases associated with IEB dysfunction.

Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) use genetic variations, usually Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), to understand how they relate to physical traits. This research proposes two new algorithms to identify important SNPs. The first algorithm combines five penalized models, while the other implements Bayesian deep learning. The objective of the proposed algorithms is to utilize the beneficial properties of the models to produce significant SNPs and achieve high predictive performance. These algorithms are compared with existing methodologies using multiple evaluation metrics for performance comparisons. Results show that the penalized-based algorithm outperforms individual penalized models and that the Bayesian neural network outperforms traditional convolutional neural networks. These algorithms’ results complement GWAS software’s results as they use different statistical models. Our proposed research appears to be important as it tackles the challenge of identifying important SNPs in high-dimensional SNP data. The proposed research provides guidelines for its users to make informed decisions and choose better-performing algorithms for GWAS. The findings may advance the understanding of genetic variations and their relationship to physical traits leading to new insights and medical applications. Finally, SNPs' identification can help early detection of diseases making it possible to start treatment before the disease progresses to an advanced stage.

A child’s first encounter with a gendered world is through their parents. Caregivers decide what to name their child, their pronouns, how to decorate their room, and which clothes and toys they will buy them. The divide only continues, as society emphasizes, sorts, and judges children based on binary gender, completely erasing gender expansive possibilities. A new movement known as gender creative parenting aims to disrupt the harms done by gender socialization and make space for gender exploration by supporting children to self-determine their gender identities and expressions. Given the unique position that gender creative parents are in, they stand to offer personal, practical, and social knowledge on navigating the tension of honouring a child’s authentic sense of gender within a world where the gender binary is ubiquitous. This research will explore the lived experience of caregivers using the gender creative philosophy, advancing old and new conversations around how to best support children’s gender development.

Despite the importance of sexuality for well-being, many people receive a lack of information—or even misinformation—about sexuality. When people lack access to accurate information about sexuality, they may develop inaccurate beliefs, which could impact their sexual well-being. Identifying who is most likely to hold false beliefs about sexuality is crucial to targeting information to those who need it most. In this study, 4428 people completed a survey reporting on their demographics, endorsement of sexuality myths, and sexual outcomes. Results revealed that being assigned male at birth, identifying as cisgender, identifying as heterosexual, having more conservative political views, being more religious, and having ever taken a human sexuality course in college all predicted greater sexuality myth endorsement. Higher sexuality myth endorsement predicted poorer sexual outcomes. These results will allow researchers to target knowledge translation initiatives to people most at risk of holding beliefs detrimental to their sexual well-being.

Sex isn't just about reproduction - it can also trigger dramatic physiological changes in female animals. Take the common fruit fly, for example: during mating, the male not only transfers sperm but also a protein called sex peptide. This protein kickstarts post-mating responses (PMR) in the female, increasing its feeding to meet the increased metabolic demands of reproduction. But how exactly does PMR work? That's the question our lab is investigating. We're delving into the neural and molecular mechanisms behind PMR in fruit flies, aiming to shed light on this fascinating and important process. We've already uncovered a key protein in the female nervous system that regulates hunger - and we suspect that this protein is also involved in post-mating feeding behavior. By manipulating specific neurons and measuring feeding behavior, we hope to identify the neural circuits and molecular pathways responsible for PMR. Our ultimate goal is to gain a deeper understanding of how animals regulate reproduction and metabolism, and how these processes are controlled at the molecular and neural levels. Findings from this research could have implications for improving reproductive health and food intake regulation in other species, including humans.

Men’s access to mental health support services is a pressingly important topic of equity and social justice in Canada. This study considers critical gaps in the extant literature, particularly the underrepresentation of certain subgroups of men; and statistics reported in Canadian men, including higher rates of incarceration, and deaths by suicide and overdose. Ensuring equitable access involves not only the existence and availability of the services, but the consideration of intersecting factors that may block access. As part of a two-fold investigation, this preliminary study sought to first examine the availability of existing community services for men through interviews conducted with service providing agencies in B.C. The results suggest that such services and their necessary funding is limited; and concurrent with longstanding research trends stigma presents a particularly strong barrier to men’s access of mental health support. To better understand the strengths and gaps in existing systems of support, the second part of this study will employ a mixed-method approach to learn directly from men in B.C. Broadly, it will consider perceptions of access, and specifically the experiences of men who have accessed support, but whose voices are historically less heard in research.

Pain is commonly experienced by older age adults living with severe dementia; however, their behavioural response to pain (e.g., facial expressions, body movements, interpersonal interactions) are often misinterpreted as signs of cognitive impairment and are falsely treated with anti-psychotic medication. Unfortunately, this mistreatment can result in serious health consequences and even death. Therefore, researchers have looked to develop methods of accurately assessing pain related behaviors using observational tools. Observational pain assessment tools are checklists used to assess non-verbal behaviors of pain in adults with severe dementia. My research looks to evaluate several of these tools to see which can assess pain most accurately in this population. My results are indicating which of these tools perform well, while showing which need further revision. My research is part of an ongoing effort to improve our ability to assess pain behaviors accurately. By improving on assessment outcomes, we can help make health care providers more confident in their assessments, and most importantly, we can improve the quality of life and well-being of people living with severe dementia.

The arts play an important role in shaping us; assisting us to discover further forms of self-expression, helping humanity to find the joy in life and making our experiences more meaningful and memorable. In academic terms, fine arts education in secondary school accentuates the importance of creativity and plays on unprejudiced views, encouraging acceptance, tolerance and unity. However, despite these significant life lessons, the presence of the arts and their value in education systems across North America has dwindled over the past few decades. This study examines two questions: How has participation in high school fine arts programs influenced the lives of graduates in BC? For those graduates that did not engage in high school fine arts programs, what were the reasons or challenges and how can they be overcome? This study also explores the benefits and enjoyment of participating in the arts programs in high school, as well as post-graduation. This research specifically examines perspectives of recent high school graduates from secondary schools in Greater Victoria on the value and challenges of engaging in fine arts education in secondary school.

Stem cell therapy has shown significant potential for cardiac regeneration and repair following a damage due to cardiac injury. In this regard induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have emerged as promising cell type, as iPSCs have the ability to differentiate into beating cardiomyocytes. In fact, the ability to create patient-specific cardiomyocytes from iPSCs also offers opportunities to create personalized disease models to test the efficacy of novel drug formulations and study mechanisms of disease progression. Therefore, iPSC technology holds significant potential for cardiac regeneration and repair. However, iPSC derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) are immature in nature and are reported to display characteristics of fetal cardiomyocytes, which has significantly limited their application as a source of cell therapy and in the field of drug discovery. Therefore, strategies to produce mature cardiomyocytes using iPSCs would be of significant therapeutic value in the field of cardiac regenerative medicine. In my PhD thesis I will be investigating the potential of carbon-based biomaterials for maturation of iPSCs derived cardiomyocytes and apply it in the field of cardiac stem cell therapy.

Increasing the biomass of macroalgae on the British Columbian coast can have positive impacts on biodiversity, climate change mitigation and food security. Identifying areas that could support high kelp productivity is a valuable, yet often underemphasized, step prior to establishing locations suitable for seaforestation — a regenerative practice that aims to grow resilient marine ecosystems. Sections of the British Columbian (BC) coastline were examined to identify favourable conditions for Nereocystis luetkeana forest development based on available oceanographic information and direct measurements of existing distributions of N. luetkeana. Potential opportunities for seaforestation or macroalgae aquaculture in British Columbia are then identified. Study sites were analyzed to test whether the free and accessible data examined herein are useful for the placement of N. luetkeana seaforestation efforts. The product of this study is steps to help guide bull kelp seaforestation site selection along with recommendations to improve the methodology around site selection.