Research and Scholarship Days

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Research and Scholarship Days

March 27 - April 6, 2023

Thank you for joining the Office of Research, Scholarship and Community Engagement and the University Library in celebrating this year’s Research and Scholarship Days from March 27 - April 6. 


2023 Research and Scholarship Days winners

Reem Amin

Using bimolecular fluorescence complementation to test for protein-protein interactions between ABCG transporters

Program: Biology 

Supervisor: David Bird 



When walking in a park on a rainy day, most people focus on the vibrant greens of the damp foliage, the smell of petrichor hanging in the air, or simply getting out of the rain. They wouldn’t pay any mind to the way the water runs effortlessly off the waxy surface of leaves or wonder why that happens. While that may sound oddly specific, for student researcher Reem Amin, this was a major question for her in the fall of 2022. 

Reem Amin is a fourth-year biology student who is graduating this spring. While working as a research assistant for Dr. David Bird at Mount Royal, she dove into the world of plants and how they work. 

Specifically, she looked at the cuticle, which covers any part of a plant that isn’t comprised of wood. The primary function of the cuticle is repelling water, but there are still knowledge gaps in the scientific community about how the cuticle gains those properties. 

The epidermal cells beneath the top layer of the plant produce the wax components that form the cuticle. So, scientists know how the waxy molecules are made but don’t know the exact method for how they are transported from the epidermal layer to the surface. 

“This is where my research comes in. It is one part of a very large picture,” Amin says. To explore her primary research question, Amin studied four protein transporters that work together somehow to move proteins from the epidermal layer to the cuticle. They are ABGC 11, 12, 18, and 19. 

In the lab, Amin used a technique called bimolecular fluorescence complementation to test for interactions between the four protein transporter subjects to determine which combine to facilitate the creation of the waxy layer on the cuticle. 

It was a lengthy process comprised of various steps needed to prepare the proteins for study under the microscope. It included cloning the proteins, growing them in petri dishes, and performing gel electrophoresis. 

Amin states that while she has no interest in plants, she did like the technical aspects of the project, which proved to be quite rigorous. Amin continued, saying that “there is a whole lot of microscopy. Sometimes 6 hours straight of staring through the microscope, trying to see if there is any fluorescence. It’s a whole lot of lab work.” While challenging, this helped Amin engage in the aspects of research she appreciated the most. 

Apart from being an invigorating journey, the lab work for this project helped provide the practical technical experience needed for working in a lab in the future. Amin learned to perform essential lab work, like making stock solutions and petri dishes from scratch. 

The experience is one that Amin thinks is vital for any student who wishes to work in a lab as part of their career, and says that volunteering and offering their help to professors is a great way to move into research assistant positions. 

As for advice, Amin says that students should not agonize over making mistakes. While students should obviously not make major mistakes like “spilling a hundred-dollar reagent,” the process of making mistakes and asking for help is vital to learning. “ I remember being so apprehensive in my third year when you really start getting into rigorous lab experiences. I was so scared of messing up. But time and time again, my mentors and supervisors said it's ok to mess up. That’s how you learn.”  


Jess Ede and Sara Pauls

Kids in Care: The Impact of Behavioural Intervention Strategies on Success

Program: Child Studies

Supervisor: Monica Pauls 



For Child Studies students Jess Ede and Sara Pauls, their research project was far from a simple assignment on the path toward completing their degree. 

Their research project titled “Kids in Care: The Impact of Behavioural Intervention Strategies on Success” looked at the strategies used by residential care and group housing to help youth transition into adulthood. The project's ultimate goal was gauging their levels of success. 

The majority of youth in these homes have lived within these systems for most of their lives. Many have experienced traumatic events or live with developmental issues. These homes are used to teach them life skills by residing in a household meant to emulate living like an adult. 

Research focusing on this population group was made more meaningful for the pair as they share similar positions working in the field of child and youth care, where they work as counsellors providing emotional support and guidance. 

Their shared job experience wasn’t the only thing that helped make research seem a more promising proposition. Ede’s father used to work for the group Bikers Against Child Abuse. As she recalls, her fathers’ actions inspired her to follow in those footsteps. 

“My dad used to accompany kids going to court who were involved in cases where they had been abused by their parents. I always felt like I wanted to be a part of something like that,” Ede says. Following in those footsteps made the Child Studies program a no-brainer to be a part of. 

Pauls notes her experience at Mount Royal as a valuable step on the path toward her chosen career. “I love this program so much. I’m a big advocate of child studies and the way Mount Royal has created the child and youth care program overall.” Pauls continues saying, “the way the courses are scaffolded is really interesting. The structure allowed us to carry research over from previous semesters.”

Despite all of this, research was intially something they were skeptical jumping into, escpeially Ede. “Going into this class, I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to like research. I know what it is. It’s not for me,’” Ede says. However as they moved through their research and development design class, their teacher and supervisor, Dr. Monica Pauls was there to encoruage them and spread her passion for research and childcare. They both note that Dr. Pauls was so passionate "they were pulled right in. As they went deeper into the process, Dr. Pauls was able to show them how they can make a difference and promote real change. 

The opportunity to work together was also a nice perk to help the research along. The longtime friends found they work nicely together despite being polar opposites. As they describe it, Sara is ordered and responsible, structuring everything nicely and keeping it on time. Jess describes herself as the one that “comes up with some fun ideas” but always has Sara to “make it make sense.” Their personalities meant the collaboration process was smooth, and they could bounce ideas off one another. 

However, despite their investment in the topic and encouragement from ther supervisor, their research results were disheartening to see. 

Four qualitative interviews with staff members at residential care and youth housing initiatives showed that youth exiting those programs had little success transitioning into adult life. Previous literature reviews backed this up, demonstrating gaps in the system. 

Despite this, it leaves Ede and Pauls with hope that their research may help make a difference. While attending Research and Scholarship Days, the process of disseminating their research proved to be an uplifting experience. “It warmed our hearts,” Ede said. While the results of the study were disappointing, talking about it was a big upside. 

Pauls continues saying that the pair is “passionate about breaking the stigma around youth in group housing and letting kids have a voice about their experiences in residential care. Rather than letting others imagine for themselves what it’s like.” 

With one more year left in their program before graduation and their careers ahead of them, this initial research is something they want to see built upon.



Donald W. Golden, Jason Oliemans, Kalindra D. Walls, Eric C. Bennett, Esthevan Machado, Spencer Skaper and Ranita H.K. Manocha

Muscle Weakness in Joint Hypermobility: Contributing Factors and Implications for Improving Strength

Program: Athletic Therapy

Supervisor: Jared Fletcher 



Being flexible is usually considered to be a good thing. However, in the physical sense of flexibility, it can go too far sometimes. Hypermobility disorders are any conditions that allow joints to extend past their normal positions. This is known most commonly through double-jointedness. That benign quirk of the body can sometimes be fatiguing, however. 

That’s where a group of Mount Royal University students from the athletic therapy program come in. They specifically studied a hypermobility condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or HEDS for short. 

HEDS is a disorder that affects the connective tissue of your skin and joints. It can lead to overly flexible joints that cause pain, discomfort, and frequent dislocations. Focusing on this joint problem is specifically where the athletic therapy students come in. 

The team consisted of Donald Golden, Jason Oliemans, Kalindra Walls, Eric Bennett, Esthevan Machado, and Spencer Skaper. The team also had support from Dr. Ranita Manocha from the University of Calgary, who helped gather participants for the project. Initially, the project was spearheaded by Golden, Oliemans, and Walls, with each student overseeing a specific aspect of the study. 

Golden led the research on muscle weakness, how muscle weakness connects to HEDS symptoms, and what the potential causes of muscle weakness would be. Oliemans looked at the energy cost of locomotion and how that differed in someone with HEDS compared to someone without. Finally, Walls started the initial directed readings on this project and handled the quantitative surveys sent out to participants. 

Working from Dr. Jared Fletcher’s lab at Mount Royal, the team steadily grew as students working in the lab joined the project to gain experience, which ultimately proved invaluable for the team, as Golden recounts. 

“We worked as a team in a way that allowed us to actually perform the study and work with as many participants as we ended up having.”

Golden continues saying “we had one person to start the ultrasound, one person to start the patient walking. Everyone got experience in different roles. Everyone was always in a mindset of ‘I want to participate and learn more,’ we all bounced off each other, and I thought it was a nice process.”

The study had many moving parts, with each section of the project needing to gather its own data. Experiments and tests involved using ultrasounds to measure the composition of the muscles, looking at the size of muscles, and measuring the angles of joints in the legs and feet as they had participants walk. 

The main finding was that during walking tests, when the ankle was held in the 90 degrees position, it was much weaker in someone with HEDS. That is an important angle for the ankle when walking, pointing to signs of fatigue and less activity in that particular muscle. 

Golden states that it is a hypothesis based on their results, but the team believes that strength training focusing on the ankle during physical therapy could be implemented in HEDS patients. It could improve muscle strength and alleviate the symptoms of HEDS. 

This was a large project with many moving parts, and Golden says that the team hopes for several academic papers to come out of their work.


Aliya Jomha

“You’ve Got A Friend in Me”: Does Peer Support Help With Depression?

Program: Psychology

Supervisor: Dan Devoe 



Not many students could claim they were in a position similar to Aliya Jomha this past March. As the semester at Mount Royal entered the home stretch before exam season, Jomha was in Montreal helping the Mount Royal Cougars win the U-Sports national championship for women’s hockey. On top of that, she was also preparing her student research presentation for Research and Scholarship Days, which would be happening later in April. 

Jomha’s poster presentation, which focused on analyzing the effects of peer support groups on depression outcomes, was completed while Jomha was travelling from city to city as the Cougars competed in the Canada West playoffs for women’s hockey and ultimately, the U-Sports national championship. 

Trying to coordinate Zoom calls on the bus with Jomha’s coordinator, Dr. Dan Devoe, across time zones and late nights proved challenging as they worked together to bring Jomha’s poster presentation across the goal line.  

However, what would maybe seem like a daunting prospect for many, was second nature to Jomha. As Jomha states, she’s been balancing hockey and school since she was in junior high, and she has always been able to relate to the academic and athletic aspects of being a student.

She recounted that “as the years have gone on, I’ve gotten a lot better with my time management skills, and now that I’m in university and finding what I’m really passionate about, it’s not difficult to make time.” 

While hockey may have been a space Jomha was familiar with, research was a new endeavour. Jomha is wrapping up her second year in psychology, and the work she did for her Research and Scholarship Days poster presentation was the first time she had dived into the world of research. 

“I had done basic research papers in the past, but this is the first time I was looking at sample sizes, dealing with terminology, and having to understand things like ‘what is a bouillon phrase.’ A lot of it was just getting more comfortable reading the literature where the language can be hard to break through sometimes.” 

As a psychology student, Jomha was a part of Dan Devoe’s undergraduate research lab, where he encouraged everyone to participate in Research and Scholarship days, providing his students with research topics they could use as a starting point. 

Jomha picked the topic of peer support groups and their ability to provide positive outcomes in depression, stating that “I think everyone knows someone that struggles with depression. It aligns with so many aspects of life, like anxiety and stress, especially in the undergraduate context.” That seeming ubiquity of mental health issues in society today motivated Jomha to explore the topic further. 

With more dedicated research, Jomha believes that the topic can be deconstructed for the everyday audience and support actions that get people more involved. 

“You don’t have to be a clinician, you don’t need to know anything about pharmacology or drugs, you just need to know a few facts, and how to talk with people, to support people.”



Maria Salome Faria Blanco

Deconstructing family housing instability through a harm reduction lens

Program: Psychology 

Faculty Advisor: Ines Sametband



Salome Blanco recounts that the discipline of psychology had ‘called to her.’ Even from a young age, Blanco had a passion for human well-being and cared deeply for the mental health of those around her. 

Now in her third year of studies in the psychology program at Mount Royal, Blanco had the opportunity to take her learning to the next level by engaging in her first research project. 

Joining the Catamount Fellowship, Blanco received a research question based on a series of interviews she performed in the lead-up to the program. Tailored to her interests and experiences, her research question was how can harm reduction approaches be applied in the family housing support system. 

The topic was an ideal place for Blanco to begin her research journey. By contributing to existing research, Blanco hopes to contribute to the improvement of housing support systems that continually let “families fall through the cracks, especially single mothers or any family that isn’t typical.” Blanco’s own experience with this issue also motivated her research. “With housing instability, I’m very passionate about it. As an immigrant, I had been so close to housing instability with my family so many times,” Blanco says.

A rigorous literature review was the first stage of the research process. Eventually, Blanco was able to perform hands-on community consultations. Although she couldn’t go through a research ethics board and get approval to work with the vulnerable populations at the heart of this issue, she was able to meet with organizations that work with populations experiencing housing instability. 

“I had this huge conversation, which was three hours long one morning, where we had coffee and icebreakers. With this conversation, it wasn’t meant to collect data. It was meant to gain a qualitative understanding of where organizations are in the system,” Blanco said. 

What Blanco took away from these conversations and the literature review was that there were fundamental issues with the ways service workers interacted and viewed the families they were supposed to serve. 

“We realized through these conversations that there is a bit of a saviour complex. When you deal with a family, it is ‘how do we save this family’ instead of ‘how do we give these families the tools they need to then function on their own,’” Blanco said. 

The conclusions of Blanco’s research point to a need for fundamental change at the training level for social workers. The recommendation is that social workers should receive training that “sees parents and families as experts of their own lives. Because right now families are viewed through the institution’s lens, that the institution knows better than you,” Blanco says. 

While Blanco continues to finish her degree and pursue her passion for helping others, she also encourages other students performing research to have faith in themselves. She warns of imposter syndrome and to learn that “you are more capable than you think.”

“I didn’t think I could get through all of this. But today, seeing my work completed and disseminated, I was thinking to myself, ‘wow I really just did a year’s worth of research,’ and that is amazing to me.” 


Abbey Matthews

Animals in the workplace

Program: Business: Human Resources 

Faculty Advisor: Christian Cook 



Enduring the COVID-19 pandemic at home, with the majority of human interaction done online, added undue stress to an already stressful time. As a result, many people turned to furry friends for comfort, adopting pets in record numbers to help them through the long days at home. 

For some students, pets became even more essential as they dealt with the overwhelming workload of online classes with no outlets for social interactions they would have otherwise. Abbey Matthews was no different. Matthews, who is now in her fourth year of business, majoring in Human Resources, alleviated stress by spending the days with her dog Sawyer. 

Matthews recounts the long days during the pandemic when Sawyer would “just lay next to me, and when I was overwhelmed with school, I’d just give him some cuddles. He was always there, and he really helped my stress levels. It was a nice break from all the stress.” This time spent with affectionate friends made Matthews consider the role pets have with us today in an ever-changing world. 

Using her experiences as inspiration, Matthews decided to focus on pets in the workplace for her class research project, which she presented through an oral presentation for Research and Scholarship Days. 

Though her research question evolved over many iterations, Matthews eventually settled on how offering pet-friendly policies at a workplace may increase organizational attractiveness. 

The qualitative research phase has not begun yet, but Matthews was able to present findings from her literature review, along with her research plan, during Research and Scholarship Days. 

The plan is to ascertain interest levels for having a pet-friendly workplace among new entrants to the workforce by conducting interviews with undergraduates and recent graduates. 

With this research, Matthews hopes to provide beneficial information to businesses about what policies they can adopt to keep their workplace attractive and draw in talent. Post-pandemic worker practices are shifting toward being more accepting of flexible workplaces, and a pet-friendly policy may be part of that. “I loved having my dog with me, and I wondered if that would impact the decision of someone wanting to work somewhere. I feel like it’s a whole new world post-COVID. Everyone wants to be with their animals,” Matthews says. 

Matthews work could be especially important considering that during the literature review, Matthews found little new research being done on the topic, with most scholarly material published before the pandemic. 

Aside from researching a topic relevant to the workforce, Matthews also received firsthand practical experience that emulated what researchers do when performing their work. 

Because of human involvement in interviews for the main phase of her research, Matthews had to seek ethics approval. “I was told by my supervisor that I’m filling out the same forms as someone who would be doing human-centered experiments and tests. Everything needs to be disclosed,” Matthews says. It provided a unique student experience that Matthews says was made clearer after having completed an initial, 全面的文献回顾和计划阶段. 

“Everything will start to seem clear after the initial hurdles at the start,” Matthews says. “At the start, it seems like there are so many paths to take.“ Matthew's newfound experiences demonstrate the benefits of having a good foundation for conducting research.




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