My name is Ryan Wang and I am a recent graduate of St. John's-Ravenscourt School. I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. It was only in my final year of high school when I started participating in science fairs and I found it to be a very enriching and extraordinary experience. In the fall, I will be pursuing a general science degree at the University of Manitoba and I hope to enter a career in the medical field in the future.
Cardiac fibrosis is characterized by the stiffening of the heart muscles. Our laboratory has found that a protein called scleraxis is directly involved in fibrosis. This project proposes that phosphorylation, a process that regulates protein activity, can be used to possibly control scleraxis' activity and ability to activate the expression of genes that cause fibrosis.
What motivated you to participate in SBCC? Did anyone encourage you?
I had heard about the SBCC competition after some students from my school had competed in it. During the summer, after gaining some lab experience, I approached my mentor and discussed the possibility of doing a science fair project. Through my parent's and my mentor's encouragement, I then applied to take part in the SBCC competition.
Where did your project idea come from?
My project arose from the work my mentor's lab was already conducting. His lab studies how a protein called scleraxis is directly involved in a disease known as cardiac fibrosis. This pathological condition of the heart is characterized by the stiffening of the cardiac muscle due to a buildup of collagen and this occurs after the heart suffers a major injury such as a heart attack. This disease can eventually lead to heart failure and even death. Currently, there are no available therapeutics to treat cardiac fibrosis. Due to the lack of knowledge of how the protein functions on a molecular level, we decided to see whether or not this protein was phosphorylated. If this was true, we also wanted to investigate whether we could control the protein's ability to activate genes that cause fibrosis by affecting its phosphorylation status. From this starting point, my project took off.
What about your work might be of interest to other teens or impact their everyday life?
The results from my project gives new insight into a possible way to develop a therapeutic to treat cardiac fibrosis. From my project's results, I have identified that this protein's activity and ability to activate genes that cause fibrosis can be regulated by phosphorylation. With this in mind we could eventually develop drugs to treat cardiac fibrosis by possibly targeting scleraxis and how it phosphorylates. If a drug could be developed, then we would be able to treat millions of patients around the world suffering from cardiac fibrosis.
What was your favourite part of the experience? Was there anything you found especially challenging?
My favourite part was being able to do most of the lab work myself and learning all of the techniques and how to operate sophisticated equipment. Also, learning the concepts of molecular biology that were involved in my project was very interesting. The most challenging part was having to balance my lab work with my intensive work load from school and my extracurricular commitments.
What would be your advice for other youth considering participation in SBCC?
I would definitely encourage anyone who is interested in science to consider applying for SBCC. Participating in the competition was an rewarding experience and was also a great way to learn how to carry out a project in the frontlines of biomedical research. The first step would be to get more information about how the SBCC competition works and how to apply from your science teacher. Next, you have to find a mentor. This is probably the biggest obstacle before getting started and the key thing is to ask and email a lot of different scientists and professors. After finding a mentor, it is important to keep asking questions and to not be afraid to pitch any ideas you may have. Once you start your project, it is all about hard work, perseverance, and effective time-management skills. It can sometimes be overwhelming, but in the end, the hard work will pay off! There is nothing more gratifying than receiving good results from your research after countless hours of intensive work. Participating in the SBCC competition was a great way to meet young, brilliant minded students, and to investigate and present possible solutions to complex problems affecting today's society.