NSERC award winners ahead of their time

Christopher Buschhaus of Coombs, B.C. skipped grade four, Nancy Marcus of Surrey skipped grade nine science, and while being home- schooled, Simon Moore of Orangeville, Ontario skipped a year of elementary school and then fast-tracked high school to finish another year early.

Obviously this acceleration did anything but hinder the capabilities of these biology majors. The NSERC board, who allots funding on the basis of making strategic investments in science and technology in Canada, deemed TWU's science research worthy of funding, and these three students as the right ones to participate.

Nancy Marcus and Simon Moore, who were each awarded NSERC's Undergraduate Student Research awards, took part in cancer and Alzheimer research while working with cancer researcher Eve Stringham, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology. While studying the unc-53 gene, Marcus was responsible for genetic screening in an attempt to help identify molecules involved in cell development within the nematode worm, also known as C. elegans. Also involving the nematode, Moore's research role was to genetically modify bacteria to produce worm proteins, which were then purified for use in immunostaining or further experiments.

After spending her summer researching at TWU, Marcus—who graduated from TWU in April—began her master's degree in molecular biology at Simon Fraser University, again under professor Stringham, who is an adjunct faculty at SFU. Marcus credits the award with boosting her academic career.

“It was a complete honour to receive this award, and is especially significant to my career and future as it prepares me for graduate studies and further research,” says Marcus, a life-long Surrey resident. “To be able to work alongside such an amazing professor and be given the opportunity to aid in Dr. Stringham's research projects is a priceless experience! I would not trade my TWU experience for anything.”

These research opportunities have been invaluable for Moore as well. “Winning this award gave me the opportunity to experience professional scientific research first-hand,” says Moore, a fourth year student who has already applied to medical school for fall 2005. “Within a few days of starting I was trusted to run experiments on my own, and throughout the summer my supervisor and other lab staff kept pushing me to grow. The experience allowed me to develop relationships with professors that I would not normally have had the opportunity to do.”

The third NSERC winner, Christopher Buschhaus, a 2004 graduate of TWU, can now boast two NSERC grants in his portfolio. This September he began his graduate work at UBC, on full NSERC scholarship, valuing over $17,000, and he hopes to pursue his dual passions of research and teaching.

"This grant permits me to funnel my energy into my studies and then focus on research on a project of my choice," says Buschhaus who is focusing on botany. "The research will focus on the mechanisms and pathways of water movement across plant surfaces, with implications for more drought-resistant crops."

Before graduating with great distinction in honours biology, with a minor in chemistry, Buschhaus earned his first NSERC grant, allowing him to conduct research with Craig Montgomery, PhD, Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Department.

"He was always available to answer questions and to give of his time," says Buschhaus. "He is very knowledgeable in the subject area, but I think most importantly he taught me to persevere—even when experiments do not turn out as expected after several attempts." Buschhaus was creating with compounds called metallophosphoranes that hopefully will be useful as catalysts for pharmaceutical products.

“I could do research and teaching for the rest of my life,” says Buschhaus, who, on December 20, 2004 will make another life commitment by marrying Hannah Shriner, fellow honours biology graduate from TWU. “Science is fascinating and personally very rewarding. I get enthused when I see other people start to understand it. When they see the combination of the complexity and functionality in it and something clicks, I just love it.”

Last Updated: 2015-07-20
Author: Keela Keeping