Noah Warner of Yarmouth says he is hoping a research experience he is taking part in will help him to “think like a scientist.”
But given that he was selected for this prestigious opportunity to begin with, it’s safe to say he’s already had a good start on achieving this goal.
Warner – who is an undergraduate student studying physics at Mount Allison University – is one of just 15 Canadian undergraduate students selected for a 10-week research placement as a part of the 2019 Amgen Scholars Canada Program.
His selection was from a field of 120 applicants. The 20-year-old, who graduated from Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School in 2017, is the only person from Nova Scotia in the program.
This is the first time the global research program is being hosted in Canada. It is taking place at the University of Toronto. Warner is working alongside Professor Raymond Reilly at the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, in research that is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Professor Reilly is developing a radiopharmaceutical drug to eradicate small metastases from a poor prognosis form of breast cancer called “triple-negative breast cancer.” The goal is to improve the long-term survival of patients with this type of breast cancer. He is using an antibody that binds to a protein commonly expressed on tumours called the epidermal growth factor receptor. The antibodies will be attached to a radioisotope, indium-111 that emits Auger electrons, named after physicist Pierre Auger who first discovered these electrons almost a century ago. These electrons have a range less than the diameter of a human hair but are able to efficiently kill cancer cells if emitted close to the cancer cell’s DNA.
As part of this research, Warner will be growing small tumours in a culture dish in the laboratory and will then be treating these tumours (called spheroids) with the radioactive antibodies.
“He will measure the damage to the DNA of the cancer cells, and the survival of the cancer cells after treatment,” says Professor Reilly. “His studies will provide proof-of-principle of this new approach to eradicate triple-negative breast cancer tumours, which will lead the way for future studies.”
Warner says participating in this world-leading biomedical research is an amazing opportunity.
“To take part in something that has the potential to heal, treat disease and improve prognoses of patients is very exciting,” he says.
“I am honoured the Amgen Foundation has given me their trust to take advantage of this incredible opportunity,” Warner adds. “It will help me shape my future career in science.”
And what are his career plans for the future?
“Once I complete my Bachelor of Science (Honours Physics) at Mount Allison University, I would like to work towards a PhD in Medical Physics, or a related field. I have also been considering an MD/PhD program to lead me to a career in clinical medicine research,” he says.
Warner hopes this experience will allow him to make connections and collaboration opportunities that he can carry with him as he pursues a career in science.
“I hope to gain knowledge and experiences that I could not gain elsewhere. I hope I will gain the skills required to ‘think like a scientist’, such as problem solving, experimental troubleshooting and synthesizing information,” he says. “These skills will be useful throughout the remainder of my education and for the entirety of my career.”
The Amgen Foundation says Warner was selected for this research opportunity because “he is a star student in his own right.” Aside from his own studies, he mentors first-year science students at Mount Allison, he was Head Residence Assistant at in his student residence and was also a breakfast program volunteer at a local middle school. He’s also an avid bass musician, likes to read and enjoys taking in episodes of Jeopardy.
Last summer Warner did a research internship through Harvard at the Martinos Centre for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He’s thrilled to have been afforded this latest research opportunity.
“Working in a well-established laboratory and learning from graduate students and other scientists will prepare me for future laboratory work,” says Warner. “Meeting and interacting with the 14 other Amgen Scholars is another opportunity to make connections since they are among the top students in the country and will be the future scientific leaders. I am very lucky to be chosen as an Amgen Scholar alongside them.”
ABOUT THE AMGEN SCHOLARS PROGRAM
Since its inception in 2006, the Amgen Scholars Program has made research opportunities at premier institutions possible for more than 4,000 undergraduate students from over 700 colleges and universities who have participated to date.
Of those alumni who have completed their undergraduate studies, nearly 900 are currently pursuing an advanced graduate degree in a scientific field, and another 280 have earned their Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. More than 500 are employed in scientific fields across 33 countries, with 99 percent of surveyed alumni saying the program impacted their academic or professional direction.
Amgen Scholars is now hosted at 24 top institutions across the U.S., Europe, Asia, and for the first time in 2019, China, Singapore, Australia and Canada. The Amgen Foundation will commit more than $21 million to the Amgen Scholars Program through 2022, totaling a $74 million investment over 16 years.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Established in 1827, the University of Toronto (U of T) is Canada’s largest university, recognized as a global leader in research and teaching. The university consistently ranks among the top 25 universities in the world. Its distinguished faculty, institutional record of groundbreaking scholarship and wealth of innovative academic opportunities continually attract outstanding academics and students from around the world and across its three campuses. Known for the discovery of insulin, stem cells, the first electronic heart pacemaker and first lung transplant, U of T is the research and educational hub within one of North America’s largest biomedical clusters.