Science Dean’s Awards increase opportunities for undergrad research

This summer, six undergraduate students funded by the Faculty of Science Dean’s Undergraduate Student Research Awards (DURAs) have been working in research labs to learn what it’s like to be a scientist. They join about 20 other summer students funded by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Undergraduate Student Research Awards.

The DURAs were created to provide more opportunities for undergraduate science students at York to gain research experience. Funded through a combination of donor support and supervisors’ grants, the awards allow students to obtain paid work in a York research lab for 16 weeks.

Miranda Di Biase
Yosef Bisk

“When engaged students have early and frequent access to hands-on research, they have a better understanding of the value that the sciences offer to our society and are encouraged to consider a fulfilling career that ultimately helps others,” said Scott Tanner, a York science alumnus and adjunct chemistry professor who has provided financial support for the DURAs.

DURA recipient Miranda Di Biase, who is working with Derek Wilson, professor in the Department of Chemistry, is using unique bioanalytical techniques developed in Wilson’s lab to investigate the early-stage mechanisms of insulin pathogenic aggregation. For her, receiving this award has meant learning what it is like to go down a research path and how material taught in lectures can be applied in a scientific environment.

“I have learned not only a wide number of lab techniques and innovative ways of conducting research, but also the importance of asking questions, collaborating with peers and thinking outside the box,” said Di Biase.

Another student, Yosef Bisk, received a DURA to explore typical pattern-avoiding permutations under the supervision of Neal Madras, professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics.

He says that although classes during the year have been great and enjoyable, his experience doing mathematical research at York has allowed him to jump into the game and explore new territory.

“I’m excited to go to York every morning to try new things and expand human knowledge in mathematics,” said Bisk. “My experience as a summer research student is a dream come true – I didn’t expect it to be this wonderful.”

The Faculty of Science is committed to increasing the number of DURAs it can offer over time so that more students at York can participate in a meaningful summer research experience.

“The idea behind the awards is to provide more students exposure to frontline research and help them learn new skills,” said Ray Jayawardhana, dean of the Faculty of Science. “These opportunities also boost our professors’ research productivity and impact, and enhance the research culture across our Faculty.”