Skip to main content
McMaster University Menu Search

Highlights From McMaster's 5th Annual StemCell Talks Symposium

Solen Abdulla

Solen Abdulla | Friday, April 28, 2017

StemCellTalks organizers, Solen Abdulla and Michelle Ly, provide their highlights from the symposium's 5th year at McMaster.


Each year, McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute (SCC-RI) partners with Let’s Talk Science and the Stem Cell Network to host the highly anticipated StemCellTalks symposium. StemCellTalks is a nationwide initiative that introduces upper-level high school students to the science and practical ethics of stem cells. Since the University of Toronto’s inaugural symposium in 2010, StemCellTalks has introduced thousands of Canadian high school students to stem cell research.

April 24th, 2017 marked McMaster’s 5th annual StemCellTalks symposium. This year, we hosted nearly 200 students - the highest turnout among all eight sites across the country! Symposium attendees enjoyed a series of lectures and interactive activities which were all rooted in our “cancer stem cell" theme.

The morning session was packed with interesting talks meant to introduce students to many different facets of stem cell research, from foundational biological concepts to the importance of research ethics. Dr. Jon Draper kicked off the symposium with his outstanding ‘Stem Cells 101” lecture, which provided students with a good base of knowledge in stem cell biology. Up next was Dr. Kristin Hope, who used experiments from her lab to illustrate hematopoiesis and leukemic stem cells. Following that, students heard an engaging lecture delivered by Branavan Manoranjan on neuro-oncology and brain cancer stem cells. Closing out the morning session was Dr. Lisa Schwartz, who delivered an eloquent and thought-provoking talk on research ethics in the stem cell field.

During the lunch break we facilitated networking for enthusiastic students interested in opportunities in research and healthcare. Students were introduced to Julia Dam, a representative from the Foundation for Student Science and Technology, which matches students with mentors in their desired fields. Volunteer Coordinators from Hamilton Health Sciences were also on hand to alert students to many exciting opportunities in the healthcare setting. We hope that these opportunities will help to kick-start the careers of a few special scientists-to-be!

The afternoon session opened with a mock debate on the “14-day rule” of embryo research, an activity that allowed students to apply concepts from Dr. Schwartz’s lecture on ethics. Students were then introduced to the clinical applications of stem cells by our special guest, Dan Muscat. Dan, a three-year scleroderma survivor, provided an inspiring account of his life-saving stem cell transplant at the hands of Dr. Harold Atkins of the Ottawa Hospital. Leon Chalil followed Dan’s talk with a lecture on other promising applications of stem cells, such as fiber-optic control of locomotion in mice. Finally, we closed the day with a series of case studies written by volunteers from the SCC-RI. As a bonus, three lucky winners of our take-home case study left the symposium with amazing prizes courtesy of McMaster’s undergraduate stem cell club.

Overall, McMaster’s StemCellTalks 2017 earned overwhelmingly positive reviews from both teachers and students. We would like to thank the many devoted volunteers and speakers who went above and beyond to ensure that students had a meaningful and memorable experience. Additionally, we would like to thank the funding agencies that made the event possible: Stem Cell Network, the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and STEMCELL Technologies.

Coordinating StemCellTalks was an incredible experience for both of us. We hope that you enjoyed reading about it!

Kristin Hope

Kristin Hope

Principal Investigator

Jon Draper

Jon Draper

Principal Investigator