Co-op and Internships
OICR offers co-operative education and internship opportunities throughout the academic calendar year. Opportunities are coordinated and posted through the various university and college work placement offices. Postings and the application process follow the university term schedule, and typically begin four months before the anticipated start date.
OICR currently coordinates with McMaster University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Fleming College. To set up postings at your university or college, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First-year Nanotechnology Engineering student at the University of Waterloo
Title: Pipeline Development
Project: There are many different tools available for detecting structural variations in genetic data, but most of them have not been evaluated and tested for accuracy. The goal of this project is to analyze and compare the different tools using standard tests and data to determine which tools are the most effective. A pipeline is being created to perform these tests easily and automatically. The pipeline will later be put to use analyzing data for ongoing research projects.
Mentors: Paul Boutros
Second-year Biotechnology Technologist – Forensics at Fleming College
Andrea will be analyzing gene expression microarray data on one strain of mouse to determine their sensitivity to 2,3,4,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD).
Project: TCDD is an extremely potent environmental contaminant. All toxic effects of TCDD are mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) as the AHR is a dioxin receptor. TCDD binds to the AHR which causes a transformation of the receptor and allows it to enter the nucleus. Once this complex is in the nucleus, it alters the expression of genes regulated by the AHR. Previous studies have determined that there is a difference between male and female rats with males being 2-fold more resistant than females. However, this has not been studied in mice. Andrea will be establishing whether gender will have an effect on how the mouse responds to different treatments of TCDD. The data will be preprocessed and run through numerous statistical analyses to find differentially expressed genes in male and female mice. This will give researchers a better understanding of TCDD toxicity in humans.
Mentors: Cindy Yao and Paul Boutros
First-year Health Studies student at the University of Waterloo
Lorraine is studying malignancies and obesity in the Ontario Health Study
Title: The issue of malignancies and obesity in the Ontario Health Study
Project: Obesity has been found to be associated with an increased risk of cancer; however this may not be the case for all cancers. Studying the relation between cancer and obesity can help narrow down which site-specific cancers are influenced by obesity. Obesity is a modifiable risk factor, where interventions can be made. Findings from this study can help implement primary and secondary prevention programs for those who may be at higher risk. The Ontario Health Study includes over 200,000 Ontarians, 18 years of age and over. The Ontario Health Study data includes an ethnically diverse population, with a variation of age groups, from different geographical areas of the province. With many young adult participants within this sample, future changes in the association of cancer and obesity can be monitored throughout the cohort study and be compared to this current study.
Mentors: Nancy Kreiger, Sutapa Mukherjee and Lyle Palmer
Third-year Neuroscience Specialist, Economics Minor at the University of Toronto
Ekaterina is working on identification of trends in the clear cell renal cell carcinoma.
Title: Identification of trends in the clear cell renal cell carcinoma
Project: Like most other types of cancer, kidney cancer has a number of subtypes. The most common is Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (ccRCC), which is responsible for 67-88 per cent of the cases. Ekaterina’s project is focused on collecting and compiling the available ccRCC data, in particular DNA sequence data, RNA abundances, and methylation status, and testing the hypothesis of a relationship between gene expression and the resulting phenotype. The hypothesis is tested by performing statistical tests and fitting different models that may be able to predict the relationship between the genetic basis and cancer expression.
Mentors: Paul Boutros
Fourth-year Specialist in Biomedical Toxicology at the University of Toronto
Aileen is analyzing mice microarray data in hopes of determining how different variants of the AhR contribute to differing degrees of Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) sensitivity.
Title: Identifying Differentially Expressed Genes in AhR-Ratonized Mice
Project: TCDD is an environmental contaminant known for its varying toxicity across species. The effects range from tumour promotion, immunosuppression and death in sensitive species to total resistance in resistant species. Despite being a potent carcinogen in some animals, humans appear to share little similarity in symptoms, with the most prominent symptom being a skin condition called chloracne. TCDD toxicity is mediated by the Ah Receptor, a soluble protein that binds TCDD and other dioxins and translocates to the nucleus where it increases expression of enzymes related to oxidative damage, as well as affecting signalling pathways that may lead to cancer. Aileen is working with liver mRNA expression data of transgenic mice, whose native AhR has been replaced with different variants of the rat AhR. Past studies have shown that rats possessing a mutant AhR are 1000-fold more resistant to TCDD. The data will be preprocessed and run through a series of statistical tests and comparisons to determine which genes are differentially expressed between the TCDD-sensitive and TCDD-resistant variants. These genes will help us understand why some species are more sensitive to TCDD than others, and ultimately what the cancer risk of exposure to TCDD is in humans.
Mentors: Paul Boutros
Fourth-year Chemistry student at the University of British Columbia
Doris applies new synthetic methodologies developed in the Medicinal Chemistry Platform at OICR to the design and synthesis of novel compounds.
Title: Organic synthesis of small molecules using new methodologies for high-throughput screening against multiple cancer cell lines
Project: Doris is currently screening new compounds developed by the OICR Medicinal Chemistry Platform for their activity against a variety of molecular targets and cancer cell lines. These compounds will be incorporated into OICR’s proprietary high throughput screening (HTS) collection. These structurally unique analogs will not only add diversity to the HTS library, but also contribute to further understanding the new methodologies developed.
Mentors: Iain Watson and Rima Al-Awar
First-year Masters of Public Health student, Rutgers University/University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey School of Public Health (Piscataway, New Jersey)
The aim of this study was to determine whether nativity status and immigrant generation modify the effect of ethnicity on the prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors, intermediate conditions, and clinical end points.
Title: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk among Ontario Health Study participants: Analysis of risk factors by ethnicity and nativity status
Project: Research has shown differences in the number of individuals affected by cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors by ethnicity. This study considered ancestry, immigrant generation, and socio-demographic factors in addition to ethnicity to develop a more accurate description of CVD frequency in the adult population of Ontario. The multiethnic composition of the province lends itself to studies that focus on the complex associations of disease disparity between and within ethnic groups and subsequent generations of immigrants. Temporal measures of acculturation such as nativity status (i.e., foreign-born or Canadian-born), proportion of life spent in Canada, and generational status (i.e., first generation immigrant, second generation, third generation, or native Canadian) will be used as proxies to investigate changes in health-related behaviour and CVD prevalence within ethnic groups. Overall, this research will help to inform targets that address the inter- and intra-cultural idiosyncrasies that influence health.
Mentors: Lyle Palmer and Sutapa Mukherjee
Third-year Biomedical Science student at the University of Waterloo
Jennifer’s project will investigate the mechanism of interaction involved in the observed association between cardiovascular disease and self-reported depression using the data collected by the Ontario Health Study.
Title: Investigating the Association between Self-reported Depression and Cardiovascular Disease in the Ontario Health
Project: Major depression and cardiovascular disease are two leading causes of disability worldwide. Many studies have shown there to be an association between these two disorders, but the mechanisms behind their interaction remains unclear. This study will explore this relationship in an effort to provide a better understanding of the mechanisms involved using a large population based and ethnically diverse sample of adults in Ontario. The results of this project will assist in clarifying previous results and provide information on areas and populations that have not been considered.
Mentors: Lyle Palmer and Sutapa Mukherjee
Fourth- year B.Sc. Health Sciences student at Wilfrid Laurier University
Sarah’s project will compare expression levels of the ECT2 gene in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) with putative oncogenes on the same chromosomal locus. She will also sequence genes associated with recurrent mutations in acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Title: Expression and Sequence Analysis of Cancer Genes
Project: Sarah’s first project focuses on identifying the mRNA and protein expression levels of three genes encompassed in somatic copy number gains at the 3q26 locus in PDACs. The gene ECT2, at this locus, may be involved in pancreatic cancer cellular processes, while the other two genes, PIK3CA and PRKCI have been characterized as oncogenes in other tumour types. The goal of this project is to corroborate data from all levels of expression to note any associations that may hone the potential driver gene at this locus. The focus of a second AML project is to conduct targeted sequencing of three genes, TET2, IDH and DNM3TA, that have been implicated in this malignancy, and subsequently assess their mutation spectrum and frequency by analyzing a large cohort of patient tumour samples.
Mentors: Nardin Samuel and Tom Hudson
Third-year Health and Disease major, English minor at the University of Toronto
Matthew is investigating the presence of somatic gene fusion events in several pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma samples using different detection tools based on RNA-Seq data.
Title: Identification of putative fusion transcripts in human pancreatic cancer cell lines using RNA-Seq data
Project: One in 67 men and women will be diagnosed with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) during their lifetime. Most will succumb to their disease within one year following diagnosis. Gene fusions created by somatic genomic rearrangements are known to play an important role in the initiation and progression of several types of cancer. The goal of this project is to explore the possible role of gene fusions in PDAC, using RNA-Seq data from different tumour samples. The results obtained by several gene fusion discovery tools (deFuse and TopHat-Fusion) will be compared with the results obtained with another detection method called Trans-ABySS. Galaxy, which is an open, web-based platform for computational biomedical research, will be used to run these programs on the OICR cluster. The resulting putative fusion transcripts identified will be filtered, manually checked and characterized. If some high confidence fusion transcripts are identified, they will be verified experimentally.
Mentors: Emilie Chautard and Francis Ouellette
Second-year Nanotechnology Engineering student at the University of Waterloo
The Drug Delivery Group at the OICR has created a novel nanoparticle formulation to increase the efficacy of the chemotherapeutic known as docetaxel.
Title: Synthetic Modification of Carboxymethylcellulose and Use Thereof to Prepare a Nanoparticle Forming Conjugate of Docetaxel for Enhanced Cytotoxicity against Cancer Cells
Project: Nathan’s project involves the development and analysis of a novel drug delivery formulation that has increased efficacy against cancer cells. Nathan has contributed to this project by preparing samples of the nanoparticle for analysis and has further developed the method used to prepare it.
Mentors: Mark Ernsting and Shyh-Dar Li
Third-year B.Sc. Health Sciences student at the University of Waterloo
Since blood pressure is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and consequently a leading cause of morbidity and mortality amongst adults in North America, Amanda’s project will use the Framingham Risk Score for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension, which provides a means of highlighting high-risk regions in Ontario that require intervention programs.
Title: Analysis of the Geographic Distribution of the Framingham Risk Score for Cardiovascular Disease (10-year) and Hypertension by Socioeconomic Status in the Ontario Health Study
Project: The objective of formulating Framingham Risk Scores for Cardiovascular Disease and Hypertension is to effectively introduce lifestyle modifications in high-risk patients. Targeting preventive treatment is a sustainable approach to ensure adequate health care resources are available to patients and intervention programs are implemented accordingly. The Framingham Risk Scores for CVD and hypertension have been adapted to aid clinicians manage treatment and strategize primary prevention. The Ontario Health Study provides a regionally diverse profile of participants in which the Framingham Risk Score for CVD (10-year) and hypertension by socioeconomic status can be assessed.
Mentors: Lyle Palmer and Sutapa Mukherjee