Dawson students place third in college research contest
Graduating Health Science students Isabeli Pizzani Maurutto and Jennifer Robert were selected by a jury as third-place winners of a province-wide competition for the best student research projects at the college level announced by the Association pour la recherche au collégial (ARC) on May 11.
Under the supervision of Dawson teachers and researchers Sylvia Cox (Faculty, Psychology) and Hélène Nadeau (Faculty, Physics), Isabeli and Jennifer were supported by Dawson graduates Claire Gao (Class of 2020, Health Science) and Yuliya Shpunarska (Class of 2020, Pure & Applied Science). Their research project, entitled A study of cognitive inhibition and flexibility using the Stroop test, was conducted in 2020 as part of Dawson’s Neuroscience Research Group.
Research project summary
The two students gave the following summary of their project on their project poster: “We are constantly bombarded by a myriad of stimuli from our environment. Which ones attract our attention? Which do we ignore? This depends on two faculties in our brain: cognitive inhibition and flexibility. These can be tested with the Stroop Task, which asks the subject to identify the colour of a word not what the word says. A total of 21 subjects were tested and divided into two groups. They completed nine series of 20 Stroop tests, divided equally between two conditions. A longer reaction time under the incongruous condition was observed. We were unable to establish any link between reaction time and the age of the subjects.”
In a May 11 press release from the ARC, it was stated that the jury appreciated that the Dawson students made their scientific research easy to understand. They also mentioned the students’ willingness to fine-tune their methodological framework.
Learning acquired through Neuroscience Research Group experience
“We learned a lot through the Dawson Neuroscience Research Group and our project,” Jennifer and Isabeli wrote to Dawson’s Communications Office. “It really taught us how to plan and perform a research project. From organizing and exploring our ideas, designing the experiment, writing a letter of consent for our participants, recruiting our participants, conducting a pilot run to fix any issues with our experiment, testing our subjects and analyzing our data. Organization, persistence and teamwork are key! We also learned the importance of being adaptable while doing this project. Especially during a pandemic, you need to be able to rethink your original ideas in research.”
Jennifer and Isabeli encourage students who have the chance to try scientific research to go for it. “It is certain that you will learn extraordinary skills that can be very valuable in the future, whether you will be going into the research field or not,” they said.
As for future plans, “hopefully, we will be able to continue our project this summer. The results we obtained will help guide other students in their projects. They will pursue the study of cognitive tasks and learn from our mistakes,” they wrote.
In the fall, Jennifer is going into Computer Engineering at Concordia University and hopes to pursue further studies in the biomedical engineering field. Isabeli will be starting a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacology at McGill University. “This experience really confirmed my interest in going into research,” Isabeli wrote.
The Prix étudiants de l’ARC are sponsored by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, Santé, Société et culture, and by the Secrétariat du Québec aux relations canadiennes, Acfas and COOPSCO. Isabeli and Jennifer each received a $400 bursary as third-place winners. In addition, they were invited to present their project at the 88th Acfas Congress earlier this month and in November, they will get to attend the Forum international Science et société taking place online. Each recipient also received a year-long membership to Acfas, a gift card from COOPSCO and a year-long membership in the ARC.
Neuroscience Research Group: Dawson offers the rare opportunity for CEGEP students to participate in real scientific research. Every summer, students from all programs are welcome to apply to the Neuroscience Research Group and work with experienced researchers from Dawson and local universities. The exciting field of neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, where behaviour and physiology intersect. Rapidly evolving technology is opening infinite possibilities for research.