As an I-CUREUS participant I worked in Dr. Matt Holahan’s lab under the supervision of one of his graduate students, Niko. My role was to assist Niko with animal training and processing of nervous system tissue in the interest of completing his master’s thesis. My I-CUREUS project, from Fall 2014 to Winter 2015, was a continuation of my work during a 2014 Summer NSERC USRA with Dr. Holahan. I continued animal training with water maze swimming of adolescent and adult rats, and processing/staining of nervous system tissue. In doing this project I gained hands-on experience in dissecting rat brains and process/stain the tissue as described in my cellular biochemistry (BIOL2201) and principles of neuroscience (NEUR3200) classes.

Dr. Holahan’s work investigates spatial learning and memory in adolescent rats. The biochemical mechanisms involved in brain changes, only possible during adolescence are analyzed, and ultimately the research aims to illuminate the mechanisms of the critical periods of learning, as well as what may go wrong in adulthood (neurodegeneration). 

In regards to my learning experience, I have become more proficient at immunohistochemistry (the staining of nervous system tissue for analysis through a microscope). I have gotten an idea of how to organize my time between full-time classes and lab work, which is essential for any 4th year honours thesis student. Therefore, I strongly suggest that I-CUREUS is an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on lab experience for any student planning to do a 4th year research thesis and from my experience to students wishing to enter the field of research (ex. Masters of Science). By getting some exposure to lab equipment and staining procedures, Science students will have a far easier time starting up their research thesis in their fourth year. On top of this invaluable experience, additional income for a student budget is extremely helpful!

Tim Bosnic