Awards and recognition

Congratulations to Alvin Qiu and Mihai Cirstea for receiving 2018 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

Alvin Qiu and Mihai Cirstea from the Michael Smith Laboratories have been named recipients of the 2018 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Canada’s most prestigious scholarship for doctoral students in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences, and/or engineering and health.

The Government of Canada launched the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program in 2008 to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. Valued at $50,000 per year for three years, this award recognizes outstanding doctoral studies and considers three equally weighted selection criteria: academic excellence, research potential, and leadership. Congratulations to Alvin and Mihai on receiving this prestigious award!

Alvin QiuMD/PhD Student in the Hirst Lab

  • Area of Research: Cancer
  • Research Topic: Epigenomic Dysregulation in Synovial Sarcoma
  • Synovial sarcoma is a highly aggressive soft-tissue cancer that predominantly affects adolescents and young adults. This malignancy, which accounts for 10% to 20% of soft-tissues sarcomas in such a young population, has limited sensitivity to conventional chemotherapies and thus a poor survival rate. Synovial sarcomas are characterized by a unique chromosomal abnormality, a balanced chromosomal translocation t(X,18; p11,q11), that ultimately dysregulates critical genes via epigenetic modifications. The exact mechanisms of how these aberrant processes drive this cancer are poorly defined and controversial. By understanding the epigenomics of synovial sarcomas, we hope to guide the use of emerging epigenetic therapeutic agents in the treatment of this deadly disease.

Mihai Cirstea, PhD Student in the Finlay Lab

  • Area of Research: Nervous system
  • Research Topic: Connecting the Microbiome and Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • Mihai’s research investigates the role of the gut microbiome in Parkinson’s disease. PD is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nearly 100,000 Canadians, and has long been connected with gastrointestinal complications and, more recently, microbiome dysbiosis. Using both human cohort studies and in vitro cellular systems, this project aims to draw new mechanistic insights connecting the microbes in our guts and the health of our brains.

Of the 167 recipients, 21 are pursuing graduate degrees at the University of British Columbia (UBC). To see a full list of UBC’s 2018 Vanier Scholars, please click here.