SBC Alumni: Q&A with Adamo Young

Adamo Young is an Ottawa high school student who participated in the SBCC for the first time last year. His project, “Emerging Fusarium Chemotypes: Threats to Crop Production,” won first place at the regional competition, and he is looking forward to participating in the SBCC again this year.

Among his success at the SBCC, Adamo has participated in other science fairs, and has even had some of his research published. In this interview, Adamo tells us about his experience with the SBCC, what it’s like to have his research published, and some advice for students who want to submit a project to the SBCC.

Tell us about your history with the SBCC

Last year was the first time I participated in the SBCC Eastern Ontario competition. My project, “Emerging Fusarium Chemotypes: Threats to Crop Production”, was an evaluation of the effect of environmental stress on the production of toxin by the fungal pest Fusarium graminearum. I worked on this experiment in Dr. Gopal Subramaniam’s lab at Agriculture Canada. I won first place in the regional SBCC, and I advanced to the nationals where I received an honourable mention. One of the prizes that I won at the regional competition was a University of Ottawa summer research internship. I chose Dr. John Bell’s lab, which is where I started this year’s project: an experiment that compares two platforms for the production of an oncolytic virus enhancer protein.

What motivated you to participate in the SBCC?

I learned about the SBCC through my participation in the Ottawa Regional Science Fair (ORSF). Since the seventh grade, I’ve worked on biology projects to present at ORSF. I heard from fellow competitors that there was another science fair in Ottawa that exclusively featured biology projects: the SBCC. I thought that SBCC would be a wonderful opportunity to learn about different research and meet students that shared my passion for biology, so I decided to apply for it.

Describe what the research and competition process is like for you.

Research, although frustrating at times, is very exciting and rewarding. For example, while working on my current project I was having some problems with cloning into a bacterial plasmid. It took several weeks to figure out what was wrong, but eventually I was able to create successful clones. Lab work has taught me the importance of discipline and determination. The competition part is more about presentation: a chance to show my project to the judges, who provide feedback and suggestions for improvement, and ask challenging questions. It is also a great opportunity to see what other students are doing.

What is it like to have your research published?

The project that was published, “War of the Wasps,” was a biocontrol experiment that I worked on two years ago in Dr. Peter Mason’s entomology lab at Agriculture Canada. After seeing my project at ORSF, I won an award from the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club, which included having my work published. I knew that the peer review process was going to be difficult, and it definitely was. The reviewers encouraged me to integrate my research with other papers in the field and suggested that I do more background research. After many modifications and multiple resubmissions, I was able to refine the paper to a quality that was acceptable for publishing. This experience introduced me to a whole different aspect of science: the peer review process.

Describe your favourite aspect of participating in the SBCC.

AY: My favourite part of SBCC is doing the research: I love doing hands-on work in the lab. At school, biology is a very broad course with many topics that cannot be explored in depth. When you work in a lab, you really get to focus in on a specific subject, and discover new things about that subject that were not already known. I also have the unique opportunity to see the exciting work of my mentor Dr. Fabrice LeBoeuf and other researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Do you have any plans after you graduate from high school?

I plan to study biochemistry in university. I have applied to a few universities, but I have not decided where I’m going yet.

What advice do you have for students who would like to submit a proposal?

I think the most important thing to do is to pick an area or issue that really interests you and be creative. Do some research on that topic and develop a rough idea for a project. This idea will not necessarily be the experiment that you pursue, but it will allow SBCC to find you a mentor whose research focus relates to your interests.