Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

HSIP 2014 Program

HSIP 2014 Group Photo

2014 High School Interns (Left to Right: Michaela Walker, Sophie George, Kevin Choi and Mia Kennedy)



Development of immunohistochemistry tools for the research laboratory - Lead by Researcher Katy Milne


The main aim of this project was to further develop multicolour immunohistochemical techniques to enable researchers to look at multiple different cells and other targets in tumour tissue at the same time.

Like the work of previous HSIP students, the contributions of our 2014 students will enrich many projects at the Trev and Joyce Deeley Research Centre.  Specifically the students were tasked with performing a variety of experiments to test various reagents and techniques in multicolour IHC with the goal of developing a comprehensive 6 colour IHC panel of their own looking at a variety of immune cells and tumour features.

In addition to this they carried on the work of previous students in aiming to develop reliable protocols for staining mouse tissue with mouse antibodies and also for looking at blood vessels in mouse tissue.

They were also faced with numerous “challenge projects” to gauge their understanding of the techniques and develop their problem solving skills.



Gene Expression Signatures of Radiation Response in Human Cancer Cells - Lead by Researcher Dr Martin Isabelle and Research Intern Jessica Pettigrew

The main aim of this project is to investigate changes in gene expression signatures as a result of radiation responses in a radioresistant cell line (MCF7) and a radiosensitive cell line (LNCaP) in order to determine the role of glycolytic metabolites (e.g. glycogen and glucose) and their metabolic pathways, as well as some of the DNA damage response and repair pathways. This project forms a part of the bigger DRC-UVIC project using Raman spectroscopic techniques to understand the radiobiological and cellular changes that take place during cancer radiation treatment.

The contributions of the HSIP 2014 interns, Mia and Kevin, will help elucidate some of the key players involved in the radiobiological and radiation response pathways. This will help to decipher and support some of the existing molecular biology data obtained already as well as the Raman spectral features extracted from the irradiated cancer cells and tissues. Ultimately through Raman spectroscopy and supporting molecular biology techniques, we will be able to develop a predictive assay/treatment monitoring system for patient response to radiation therapy. Through this spectral biomarker radiation response monitoring prior and during radiation treatment, it will enable more optimized and personalized treatment plans through real-time dose modulation, fractionated schedules and concurrent therapies.

The HSIP student's work involved synthesizing cDNA from already extracted mRNA obtained from varying irradiated dosages (0-50Gy) from MCF7 and LNCaP cells. Using the 0Gy cDNA as well as extracted gDNA, they performed conventional PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing on ~20 newly ordered qPCR primer sets chosen for glycogen synthesis, breakdown, regulation; glucose transportation in cells and initiation of glycolysis, hypoxia targets as well as DNA damage sensors and DNA repair enzymes. After validation that each of the primers worked with each of our cell lines, the students then developed worksheet plans and protocols in order to conduct their qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction) runs using the full radiation dose range (0-50Gy) with each of our validated primer sets. After analyzing the results to decipher gene expression changes with radiation dose changes for each of the cell lines, they reported back the results to their two co-supervisors in a scientific lab report. The PCR and qPCR reaction preparation required meticulously careful and repetitive pipetting of reagents, while at the same time ensuring complete contamination-free workspaces which typical researchers have to learn over a number of months.

 In order to understand the gene targets of interests (GOIs) and their relevant molecular pathways, the students conducted extensive literature research as well as used UCSC's Genome bioinformatics web tool platform (Blat) and Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) to compare a query sequence with a library or database of gene sequences, and identify library sequences that match the targets of interest. This helped the group to determine which qPCR primers sets were the best to order and use for this project. 

In addition to their research work with our Raman group, they have participated in multiple lab meetings, journal and book clubs of a diverse areas of interest. They were also involved in areas of lab maintenance and safety to better appreciate general laboratory procedures for conduct and safety.


Meet the Interns 

Mia Kennedy   Mia Kennedy - Oak Bay High School

As a High School Intern I will be investigating Gene Expression Signatures in Radiated Cancer Cells under the guidance of Researchers Jessica Pettigrew and Dr. Martin Isabelle. My work will involve looking at the changes in Gene Expression in cells that have undergone different doses of radiation through quantitative PCR. This summer will be spent trying to decipher whether or not radioresistant and radiosensitive cell lines are storing glycogen, and if this is related to their radiosensitivity. I am very grateful for this opportunity, and to work with such supportive and knowledgeable Researchers.


Kevin Choi - Dover High School                                                                                         Kevin Choi

This summer I had the opportunity to look at gene expression signatures of radiation response in human cancer cells. My job was to perform quantitative polymerase chain reactions under the supervision of Martin Isabelle, Jessica Pettigrew, and Julian Smazynski. Using qPCR, I was able to determine the expression levels of genes with increasing doses of radiation. The main goal of our project is to help personalize radiation therapy for each individual cancer patients. The HSIP was an amazing experience that introduced me to the life of science and research. It was a summer filled with lots of learning, fun and great individuals!


   Michaela Walker                                              Michaela Walker - Claremont High School
During these past eight weeks I have had the privilege to work in the Deeley Research Centre. My partner and I have been working under the supervision of Katy Milne in the Histology Core. We have been focusing on refining the techniques for multicolor immunohistochemistry along with furthering our knowledge of the immune system. These new techniques will aid future projects and studies at the Deeley Research Centre. This once in a lifetime experience has opened my eyes to the complex world of Cancer which I can not wait to explore more over in the future!


Sophie George - St Micheal's University   Sophie George

This summer, I've had the opportunity to work in the Histology Core of the Deeley Research Centre developing and improving immunohistochemistry techniques. My fellow histology intern and I worked on assessing reagents and protocols, improving the staining of mouse antibodies on mouse tissue, and creating a protocol for a 6 colour IHC stain, among other things. It has been a fantastic experience, and I've probably learned as much in these 8 weeks as I learned last year in school! A big thanks to our supervisor Katy Milne for all her help and support. This summer has taught me so much about lab research, which I hope to apply going forward in future education and potentially employment.