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Rising stars at UTSC selected for national research competition

by Robert Onley

Two UTSC undergraduate students have been recently selected to participate in the Rising Stars of Research National Undergraduate Research Poster Competition in Vancouver, British Columbia, taking place from August 18 to 22, 2010. Jennifer Khoury, a psychology specialist graduating from UTSC this fall, and Timour Al-Khindi, a fourth year co-op neuroscience specialist and psychology major, were chosen from a highly competitive pool of Canadian undergraduate candidates for the competition. As well, a student from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) is also participating. Daniel Badali, a fourth-year UTM student who is a biophysics specialist and math minor, is taking part in the competition's physics category.

Rising Stars of Research (RSR) brings top undergraduate researchers from across Canada to UBC to showcase their research accomplishments, reinvigorate their enthusiasm for research, and excite them about continuing their education with graduate studies. The centrepiece of RSR is a research poster competition and includes workshops, talks from faculty researchers, and facility tours.

Assistant professor of psychology Elizabeth Page-Gould says, “The success of our students is a testament to the ample research opportunities at UTSC. Students can get involved in research as volunteers, through the Science Engagement program, or through supervised study and thesis projects. The Rising Stars of Research Competition is a great way to encourage UTSC’s emerging scientific talent.”

Jennifer Khoury studies the psychology of social personality by researching the effects of cross-group friendship on reducing stereotype threats, under the supervision of assistant professor Page-Gould. Khoury says that before working with Professor Page-Gould, “I did not know much about how to conduct research, but because of her great mentorship I have learned a lot about every aspect of the research process.”

“She independently conceived an intriguing research question, developed a novel experimental paradigm to test this question, and then administered the entire project at the level of a PhD student,” says Page-Gould of Khoury. “Jennifer’s success with the Rising Stars of Research Competition is a testament to her talent and hard work, as well as the high caliber of student research at UTSC.”

For the competition and as part of her undergraduate thesis, Khoury will be presenting her research on the effect that cross-sex friendships has in reducing stereotype threats for females completing a math test. Khoury says she is looking forward to the opportunity “to learn a lot from peer scholars and supervisors, which will equip me for future years in research.”

Timour Al-Khindi was also selected for the competition and says that “my studies at UTSC have taught me to be rigorous, attentive to small details and persistent. I feel that these traits helped me greatly for the RSR competition.”

Studying under the supervision of assistant professor of psychology Michael Inzlicht, Al-Khindi is researching how the brain responds when people make mistakes in different emotional situations, for example when people are anxious or when they feel good about themselves.

Al-Khindi says that through his work with Inzlicht “we’ve found that when people feel good about themselves, the brain’s electrical response to mistakes increases compared to when they are anxious or feeling neutral. Our results are a bit unexpected, but that is part of what makes science so interesting.”

Al-Khindi will be presenting these findings in Vancouver. “I hope to continue with research in the future,” he says. “The brain is a very mysterious creature and the more we learn about it, the more questions we have and the more we realize how complex things really are.”

"It is simply fabulous that Jennifer and Timour have been selected to participate in the Rising Stars of Research competition,” says Professor Malcolm Campbell, vice-principal, research at UTSC. “Jennifer’s and Timour’s selection for the Rising Stars of Research competition recognizes their excellence as young researchers, and their potential to be research leaders of tomorrow. Their selection for this competition also recognizes the importance of providing UTSC students with the opportunity to work together with fabulous faculty members like Professors Page-Gould and Inzlicht, who are research stars in their own right. At UTSC we place a high value on providing research opportunities for our students, enabling them to push ahead on the frontier of discovery and innovation."

For more details on the Rising Stars competition, click here.


Robert Onley is a 2009 political science graduate from UTSC. He is currently studying law at the University of Windsor.

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