School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Vanier Scholar - Hannah Dies

by Marielle Hawkes
November 2015

Erica Phipps

Vanier Scholar - Hannah Dies

When Hannah Dies was starting her undergraduate degree in Integrated Sciences she had a dilemma. She had always wanted to pursue medicine in the future but a first year class in physics tempted her to pursue physics as a major, a discipline she did was not sure would allow her to transition easily into medicine. Passion prevailed and she chose to major in physics, a highly challenging and theoretical field. Hannah proved herself to be an exceptional student, and worked extremely hard, although putting in the long hours in the lab was easier for her because she loved what she was doing.

When Dr. Aris Docoslis and Dr. Carlos Escobedo of Queen’s University needed a grad student for their research project on integrated optical and plasmonic microfluidic devices as portable biosensors, they sought out Hannah because of her many academic accomplishments, her research experience and her background in physics. Hannah is now enrolled in her MD/PhD at Queen’s and since September has been pursuing doctoral research in a field that is completely new to her. She is undertaking this challenge with enthusiasm, “I love the problem solving aspect of research. It’s fun to get addicted to a project that has a lot of different parts to it and you have to try and stay on top of them”.

Her doctoral research is centered around creating a portable biosensor that may be used to detect pathogenic biomolecules indicative of various types of cancers and bacterial diseases. Portable biosensors may have the ability to make medical diagnoses quickly and efficiently in remote locations without access to laboratory facilities. The way Dr. Docoslis and Dr. Escobedo are combining existing detection techniques has never been done before. The project proposes to use Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy, a plasmonic technique for the detection of molecular species.  The biosensors Hannah, Dr. Docoslis and Dr. Escobedo hope to create have potential applications internationally and in Canada.

It is this work that has earned Hannah the prestigious Vanier Scholarship, a three year program that provides funding to small number of students in Canada based on the criteria of: academic excellence, research potential, and leadership. 55 students were awarded the Vanier Scholarship this year and Hannah was ranked third overall.

Hannah is currently spending most of her time learning the practical and hands-on aspects of working in a chemical engineering lab, something she missed out on during her undergrad. She believes that her experiences in the lab during the next three years will be very transferable to the MD portion of her degree and she will be able to directly apply the skills she learns to the clinical process.

 

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