Jasveen Brar and Kate Berger are second year university students from Medicine Hat, Alberta. They competed together at Canada-wide Science Fair 2011, 2012 and 2013. Their work began with studying the environmental effects of different landfill liners. With a strong interest in science, they began a research project in grade 11 that is still on going. Based out of Hyperion Research Ltd. under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Wallis, Kate and Jasveen studied the prevalence of Giardia and Cryptosporidium parasites throughout their community. Giardia exists in a dormant form outside of the human body known as a cyst and Cryptosporidium has a similar stage called an oocyst. This facilitates their survival in the environment for long periods of time. Despite that they are also the number one cause of malnutrition and diarrhea in humans and many other species worldwide, little research has been done on their distribution. Kate and Jasveen detected these parasites in local creeks and the South Saskatchewan River. They analysed fluctuations in levels of parasites throughout the sewer system over time and found that this data in combination with routine sampling could be used as a novel method for the early detection of outbreaks. The observation that sewage sludge is commonly used as a fertilizer led them to test whether cysts and oocysts could adhere to plant stomata, as they are similar in size. They found that both parasites adhere to the stomata of spinach and lettuce leaves, and rinsing the produce would not remove them.
Their scientific work has garnered them the top awards at the Southeast Alberta Regional Science Fair. At CWSF 2012, they won gold medals and the Senior Environment Challenge Award. In their final year, they were awarded bronze medals at CWSF 2013. Currently, Kate and Jasveen are continuing this research during their summers to include genotyping Giardia isolates from environmental samples using Polymerase Chain Reaction. Outside of research, they have spent time volunteering at the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital as well as judging elementary school science fairs through an organization known as Praxis. Noticing that there was a lack of interest in science fair among youth in Medicine Hat, they started an organization known as Operation Lab Coats and Beakers. This initiative featured seminars in which they mentored junior high school students throughout the science fair process. At their high school, they were involved with Rotary Interact Club and were co-presidents of Youth for Environmental Sustainability (YES) Club. Their leadership resulted in their nomination for their community’s Top 40 Under 40.
Kate studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver where she holds a Dean of Science Scholarship and the designation of Chancellor’s Scholar. She is pursuing a combined honours degree in chemical biology and plans to go into biomedical research. Kate is especially interested in medicinal chemistry, drug design and the cell biology of disease. She has been playing piano for 11 years, and her other hobbies include ice skating and watching Dr. Who!
Jasveen is currently attending Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is working towards her degree in honours biology. Jasveen is very involved at her university, and she is an active member of the environmental sustainability group called YESSS where they organize the student farmers’ market. She is part of the Dalhousie Science Society as the Environmental Chair’s representative, as well as the Dalhousie Let’s Talk Science where she judges science fairs. Recently, Jasveen was selected as one of the Leaders of Tomorrow Excellence recipients. Her hobbies include painting and travelling.
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