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Jessica Szawara and Lucas Vajko SiddallJessica Szawara and Lucas Vajko Siddall were the first UWindsor students to present at the Ontario Quebec Undergraduate Immunology Conference.

Immunology research wins undergrads recognition

After tying for first place at UWindsor’s 2021 biology colloquium, Lucas Vajko Siddall went on to take top honours at this year’s Ontario Quebec Undergraduate Immunology Conference with his presentation, NKR-P1B Receptor Expression and Function in the Innate Lymphoid Cells of the Murine Lung. Vajko Siddall’s win earned him $300.

His presentation was based on his undergraduate thesis, completed under the supervision of biomedical science professor Munir Rahim. He set out to determine the expression, roles in function and development and maturation of the inhibitory receptor, NKR-P1B, in the murine innate lymphoid lung cells.

“This experience opened my perspectives about certain biotechnological tools like flow cytometry, and about how a laboratory environment should be running,” says Vajko Siddall.

“I suggest all prospective students endeavour in an honours undergraduate thesis."

Jessica Szawara, the student Vajko Siddall tied for first place at the biology colloquium at the University of Windsor, also did very well at the conference, competing against undergraduates from across Ontario and Quebec. The two were the first UWindsor students to compete at the event.

Szawara’s presentation, titled NKR-P1B receptor expression and function in mouse liver resident natural killer cells, was based on research done in Dr. Rahim’s lab for the undergraduate thesis course.

“It was one of the most life changing courses I’ve ever taken,” says Szawara.

“My project was the investigation of if the NKR-P1B receptor is expressed on liver resident NK (lrNK) cells — we wanted to see if the absence of the receptor changed the frequency of lrNK cells, if it had an effect on their cytotoxic function or maturity.”

Szawara’s and Vajko Siddall’s tie at the UWindsor colloquium won them each a $75 Holder-Franklin Hon Coll. Award Scholarship.

"Jessica and Lucas worked very hard despite the restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic and the limited amount of time they had in the lab,” says Rahim. “I am very proud of their work and congratulate them for a great job that deserves recognition."

Both students will graduate this year and start pursuing a master’s degree at UWindsor’s Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods with supervisor Charu Chandrasekera, the centre’s executive director, in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“Lucas will focus on 3D bioprinted human liver-in-a-dish model to study drug-induced liver injury, a leading cause of drug attrition and post market withdrawal of drugs, which cannot be accurately predicted from animal models,” says Dr. Chandrasekera.

“Jessica will work on the 3D bioprinted human lung-in-a-dish model to study the toxicity of inhaled chemicals in consumer products.”

—Sara Elliott

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