Personal diagnosis inspires URA recipient’s summer research
“Each day I was learning something new.”
While many students enjoyed a well-deserved break during the summer of 2021, undergraduate student Reyna Stefanson elected to spend her summer not at a beach, but in a lab conducting research on what might be the next frontier in nutrition: oat-based protein.
“Oat consumption patterns have been steadily increasing and so our research examined the chemical composition of the oats for future use in the food industry,” Stefanson explains. “Our research area was to determine an optimal protein extraction methodology, as well as the grain chemistry of the oats for future application as a protein source.”
A 3rd year Agricultural and Food Sciences student, Stefanson says her interest in nutrition began with an unfortunate diagnosis.
“I was drawn into this area of studies as I have always had a passion for nutrition ever since I was diagnosed with celiac disease,” Stefanson says. “As a result of this, I have always paid attention to what I am putting in my body and have been curious about the production and processing aspect of food.”
Stefanson is a recipient of the 2020-2021 Undergraduate Research Award (URA) offered through the Vice-President, Research and International Office, in partnership with the University of Manitoba Student Union. The program offers the opportunity for up to 172 undergraduate students to be immersed in research and connect with the university’s academics for 16 weeks over the summer. Seventeen of these awards are dedicated to Indigenous students and two are dedicated to community-based research projects. URA recipients also receive a $7,000 award.
The application process requires students to research and interview two professors, and in the end Stefanson chose to work under the supervision of Dr. Maneka Malalgoda.
“I wanted to work with Dr. Malalgoda as her project was of most interest to me,” Stefanson says. “Dr. Malalgoda was very welcoming and took the time to train me in several lab skills and experiments that I wouldn’t have had the chance to.”
For Stefanson, the knowledge and experience she gained from working under Dr. Malalgoda’s supervision was invaluable to her development as a researcher.
“Working with Dr. Malalgoda was a unique and irreplaceable summer research experience,” Stefanson reflects. “She has established a foundation for my future with research, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her mentorship and my URA supported summer experience.”
Stefanson says her Undergraduate Research Award experience helped spark her interest in research and develop her future educational goals.
“Each day I was learning something new and best of all it was related to my current studies. It was a great opportunity to finally apply everything that I have been learning over the past 3 years. It was such a valuable experience, and I can’t recommend it enough!”
The registration deadline for the 2021-2022 Undergraduate Research Awards is Feb. 14, 2022.