Scholarships demonstrate support for student work
Graduate students explain why they chose the Department of Pediatrics
By Tamara Vineberg on October 1, 2019
Three graduate learners have been chosen to receive the Pediatric Recruitment Scholarship, valued at $8,000. We met with Simran Ghoman (supervisor Georg Schmolzer), Reshma Sirajee (supervisor Michael Hawkes) and Simran Pherwani (supervisor Gary Lospaschuk) to congratulate them and to discover more about their research and experiences.
Why did you choose to study at the Department of Pediatrics at the U of A?
Simran Ghoman: I knew that I was interested in studying pediatrics. When I was looking up schools, I was really drawn to the neonatology work being done at the U of A. I decided to move here from Toronto to pursue my graduate degree with the department.
Reshma Sirajee: I worked at the U of A because I was participating in high school regional science competitions. I asked a professor if he could be my mentor. I shadowed him, learned about laboratory research techniques and became intrigued by the problem solving and troubleshooting aspect of research. I ended up working in a U of A pediatrics lab in high school. That’s when I got my first exposure to research. I worked with infectious diseases in my undergrad biology research course and I wanted to combine my previous pediatrics research with my new knowledge about infectious diseases. That’s how I was drawn to this path.
Simran Pherwani: I was part of CAREERS: The Next Generation program during high school where I was placed at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in the Division of iHOPE. I really enjoyed the exposure it gave me and that’s where my initial interest in pediatrics stemmed from. During my second year of university onwards, I worked in Gary Lopaschuk’s lab, studying cardiac energy metabolism during the summers. I realized the lab was a great fit for me and my interests.
What does receiving the Pediatric Recruitment Scholarship mean to you?
Simran Ghoman: The department has been incredibly supportive towards my research goals every step along the way. I have been warmly welcomed to the Department of Pediatrics by the graduate coordinators and faculty members, who have all been so sincerely generous with their time and guidance. Receiving the scholarship is another way that the department has shown that they believe in and support my endeavors.
Reshman Sirajee: Receiving the scholarship means encouragement and support towards my master's degree. I am grateful to my professor, graduate coordinators and the Department of Pediatrics for helping me navigate the graduate school programs and applying for scholarships. This scholarship is an immense support towards my field of study and I feel more confident stepping into my education path!
Simran Pherwani: Receiving this scholarship is a stepping stone towards success for me, showing that I have support from the department to pursue a master’s in a field I really enjoy. It’s great to have all this guidance and support from everyone to help me further my interest and excitement in this field. I am extremely grateful to my supervisor, graduate coordinators, and the Department of Pediatrics for creating a supportive environment and encouraging my research aspirations.
What is your research project and why are you interested in this particular field?
Simran Ghoman: I’m researching a new way to train healthcare providers in neonatal resuscitation, using the simulation-based platform RETAIN. While one in ten babies will need help to breathe at birth, most healthcare providers are underprepared to provide life-saving neonatal resuscitation care. This project will make healthcare education more engaging and easier to access for providers across all locations and resource backgrounds. I really like how this is a dynamic project in a new field, and combines clinical research with technology and education. I’m interested in this research as I believe improving the health outcomes of newborn babies begins with improving training of the people who care for them.
Reshma Sirajee: My project is looking at HIV-exposed uninfected children in Uganda. We’re looking for developmental delays in children based on identified biomarkers. Infectious diseases, including HIV, affect a lot of people around the world. HIV is one of the most prevalent ones in Uganda and that’s why I was drawn to it.
Simran Pherwani: My project is looking at how a novel class of anti-diabetic drugs can improve cardiac outcomes in the failing heart. It looks at the mechanisms of action behind these drugs, and how we think it could be providing the heart with an extra source of fuel in the form of ketones. I had an interest in pediatrics from my undergrad clinical and wet lab experiences, and I chose to do a master’s degree with Gary Lopaschuk in cardiology, because it is a field that I find extremely intriguing. Additionally, cardiovascular diseases are one of the world’s leading causes of death, and therefore, a critical issue today.