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Centre for Heart Lung Innovation Research Week Recap

HLI RW 2021 Award Winners

By Katrina Besler, Naomi Potter, and Ivan Leversage


The Centre for Heart Lung Innovation (HLI) is home to unique and talented graduate students and post-doctoral fellows working on interesting and novel research. Every summer, HLI also welcomes undergraduate, co-op, and even high school students for an opportunity to conduct research in a cardiovascular and pulmonary research laboratory setting. This program provides an invaluable first-time exposure to the workings of a science lab and an opportunity to learn practical laboratory techniques and training on laboratory equipment. For many, this is their first step towards a career as a scientist. This year, many students were able to conduct research in both in-person and online settings, acquiring valuable skills working with scientific and health data to answer novel questions.

HLI showcases the vast array of research from graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at the annual Trainee Research Day, followed by the Summer Student Research Day (SSRD) that stars the year’s summer students. In light of the pandemic, this year’s Research Week, organized by the HLI Trainee Association, was a combination of both events and was held virtually over August 16th- 20th via Zoom and an online platform called Gather. This year, 49 students presented their work to peers and a panel of judges comprised of senior researchers, Principal Investigators, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students at the Centre. The presentations were divided into 7-minute oral presentations and poster presentations. There were an average of 60 attendees per day, and 49 attendees of the student poster session, for a total of 351 sign-on’s throughout the week.

HLI Research Week showcased the students and trainees’ hard work on various research projects. These projects cover a diversity of fields and topics including basic sciences and physiology; health outcomes research; genetics, genomics, and proteomics; heart and vascular disease; COPD, asthma, and other lung diseases; and COVID-19.


During Research Week, trainees and attendees had the opportunity to hear from the following speakers:

  • Dr. Janice Leung, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at University of British Columbia, opened the week by welcoming the audience and sharing her career journey and words of wisdom.
  • Dr. Sam Wadsworth, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder of Aspect Biosystems and former HLI alumni, presented the inaugural Bruce McManus Lecture: “Bioprinted Therapeutics: Next Generation Cell Therapies”
  • Dr. Mireille Ouimet, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Ottawa, gave the Peter Paré Lecture on “Foam Cell Lipophagy in Atherosclerosis.”


During HLI Research Week 2021, the following trainees were recognized for their outstanding presentations:

Tuesday Presentation Session:

  • Top Presentation Award Winner: Fione Yip - Reduced Expression of IFNB1 and CXCL10 in NFAT5 Deficient Cardiomyocytes Weakens Host Immune Response to Coxsackievirus B3 Infection
  • Runner-Up Presentation Award Winner: Maria Caray - Unified Airway Model: Comparison of the Microbiome of the Upper and Lower Airways in Chronic Rhinosinusitis and Asthma Patients

Wednesday Presentation Session:

  • Top Presentation Award Winner: Katrina Besler - Increasing Circulating Lysosomal Acid Lipase in a Mouse Model of Atherosclerosis Using mRNA-Containing Lipid Nanoparticles
  • Runner-Up Presentation Award Winners: Madison Hung, Emily Gubskaya, and William Gervasio -  Optimization of Neonatal BCG and HBV Immunization Using Multi-Omics Data Integration

Thursday Presentation Session:

  • Top Presentation Award Winner: Daniel He -Are There Sex-Specific Gene Expression Patterns In Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Patients?
  • Runner-Up Presentation Award Winners: Felicia Liu-Fei and Coco Ng - Immunohistochemical Analysis and Digital Spatial Profiling of Autopsy Patients with COVID-19-Associated Cardiac Injury

Poster Awards:

  • Gold Poster Award: Kate Huang - Investigating the Effects of Titin Truncating Variants on Sarcomere Integrity in Arrhythmia using Patient Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes
  • Silver Poster Award: Tony Guo - Modulation of ACE2, TMPRSS2, and Furin by Dexamethasone in the Airway Epithelium: Implications for COVID-19
  • Bronze Poster Award: Elodie Sauge - Protection Against Cardiopulmonary Disease with Losartan and Its Metabolites: Small Chemical Differences, Huge Biological Impacts
  • People’s Choice Poster Award: Kate Huang - Investigating the Effects of Titin Truncating Variants on Sarcomere Integrity in Arrhythmia using Patient Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes
  • Top Rookie Award: David Yang - Aptamer-based Enrichment of TDP-43 from Human Cells and Tissues with Quantification by HPLC-MS/MS


The week’s events and awards were generously supported by the St Paul’s Foundation, the Providence Health Care Research Institute (PHCRI), the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the HLI. 

HLI RW 2021 Award Winners

Research Week would not be possible without the hard work of the HLI Trainee Association (TAHLI). The HLI Trainee Association includes all undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at HLI and aims to enhance the academic experience of all trainees by providing an environment to foster enhanced collaboration, education, professional growth and career success. Following a successful Research Week, TAHLI is actively developing a peer mentorship program for HLI trainees, designing a logo, holding social events, and regularly seeking student input on ongoing projects at HLI. TAHLI is currently led by Co-Chairs Katrina Besler (pictured left), an MD/PhD student studying atherosclerosis in the Francis lab, and Naomi Potter (pictured right) an MSc student studying cystic fibrosis in the Quon lab.

HLI Trainee Association Co-Chair
Katrina Besler


HLI Trainee Association Co-Chair
Naomi Potter