Smarti Gras: UTM’s summer celebration of undergraduate research

2020 Smarti Gras: UTM’s summer celebration of undergraduate research


Established in 2016 by the UTM Office of the Vice-Principal, Research, in collaboration with the Office of the Dean, Smarti Gras celebrates the research conducted by undergraduate students over the summer. Students from the Research Opportunity Program, recipients of the Undergraduate Student Research Awards and recipients of the University of Toronto Excellence Awards share their work in the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences through oral and poster presentations. 

This year, we are acknowledging and sharing their work online as below:

  • Name: Arvin Jia Qing Chen
    Department: Chemical and Physical Sciences
    Year Completed in Program: 3
    Supervisor: Xiaoyong Xu
    Title of Research Project: Characterization of Droughts in Canada Using the ERA5 Data  

    Exploring the factors involved in the calculation of climate moisture index in order to gain a better understanding on how much these ERA5 values correlate with drought events in Canada.

  • Name: Navkaran Kumar
    Department: Geography, Geomatics, and Environment
    Year Completed in Program: 3
    Supervisor: Laura Brown
    Title of Research Project: Changing Lake Ice Conditions in Central Ontario
    This project is dedicated to a more complex investigation of climate-ice relationship displayed by lakes in the Central Ontario region. Specifically looking at what are the driving climate factors behind the mixed directions of ice break up trends, for specific lakes seen in the region.
  • Name: Zhengyu Li
    Department: Mathematical and Computational Sciences
    Year Completed in Program: 2
    Supervisor: Parker Glynn-Adey
    Title of Research Project: A Magic Trick Using the SET Deck and De Bruijn Sequence  

    What's more magical than mathematics? Mathemagic, of course. Our trick “In TetraCycles'' is a variation on the ``In Cycles'' trick developed by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham. Four volunteers draw four consecutive SET cards from the 81-card deck. Then the magician can easily predict all four cards, only given information of one random feature. How is such a trick possible? Turns out that the magic of combinatorics, graphs, and sequences are behind this trick and making it happen. The talk will extensively discuss a special type of sequence that is used in ``In TetraCycles'' and how it connects to graph theory and combinatorics. We will also provide a walkthrough of the trick so that anyone can perform the trick with some practice! We dedicate this work to the memory and legacy of Dr. Ronald Graham.

  • Name: Jennifer Liu
    Department: Visual Studies
    Year Completed in Program: 4
    Supervisor: Evonne Levy
    Title of Research Project: The Technical Study of Bernini's Bronzes: Art History, Conservation and Material Science 

    The Technical Study of Bernini’s Bronzes: Art History, Conservation and Material Science asks new questions regarding Bernini’s practices in bronze. “36 Editions 201 Bronzes” visually captures the scope of the objects we study. The goal of this poster is to emphasize the quantity and diversity of bronze sculptures created by Bernini. Bernini’s Bronzes deviates from the idealized notion that each of Bernini’s sculptures was a unique work of genius. By organizing the bronzes into editions, it is apparent that several sculptures derive from the same mold. We have found 36 separate cases of this practice. Out of the many Bernini bronzes, there are at least 201 that can be identified as part of an edition. There has been extensive research published on Bernini’s marbles, however, our team aims to fill the gaps in knowledge regarding his works in bronze.

  • Name: Taylor Luu
    Department: Geography and Planning
    Year Completed in Program: 4
    Supervisor: Igor Lehnherr
    Title of Research Project: Dissolved Carbon and Mercury Levels in Waters of a Large, Sub-Arctic Lake and its Tributaries

    Freshwater lakes in the Arctic and sub-Arctic are an important source of food for northern communities. These ecosystems face several threats, including contamination by mercury (Hg), which can be atmospherically transported long distances from industrial sources and deposited in remote locations. In aquatic environments, Hg can be converted to methylmercury (MeHg), a neurotoxin that can bioaccumulate and biomagnify in food webs, attaining elevated levels in top predators, including fish, that are concerning for human consumers. In northern freshwaters, Hg accumulation and methylation are influenced by many biogeochemical processes and conditions (e.g. the amount and nature of dissolved carbon) and Hg levels exceeding the toxicological limit of wildlife and humans have been observed. Northern ecosystems are also sensitive to warming. A key example demonstrating this sensitivity is Kluane Lake, a sub-Arctic lake in the Yukon. The lake once received glacial meltwaters transported by the river Ä’äy Chù (formerly Slims River) from Kaskawulsh Glacier, until 2016 when the retreat of the glacier redirected all meltwater to a different river and watershed. This “river piracy” event has been attributed to anthropogenic warming. Kluane Lake now receives a fraction of its former inputs from freshwater streams and it is predicted that the loss of glacial meltwaters will result in higher levels of MeHg in the lake, which is a concern for the Kluane First Nation. 

    This summer, I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Igor Lehnherr’s Environmental and Aquatic Biogeochemistry Laboratory and had the opportunity to analyze a pre-river piracy 2015/16 physiochemical dataset for Kluane Lake and its tributaries. This dataset includes water and sediment Hg, dissolved carbon and associated optical properties, major ions, total and dissolved metals, nutrients, and landcover type and area metrics. Results from paired t-tests on Kluane Lake data showed distinctly different levels of dissolved carbon measures and Hg between lake regions. For tributaries, linear repressions between some dissolved carbon variables and the amount of vegetative cover in the sub-watershed were significant. However, many expected relationships between Hg and dissolved carbon variables measured in the lake and in the tributaries were not observed in linear regression models or were contrary to expectations. This could be due to the small sample sizes and the low values of many measurements. More advanced analyses that incorporate more variables from the dataset and effectively model relationships in complex systems (e.g. principal component analyses, multiple linear regressions) will need to be carried out. 

    The results presented here and subsequently from more advanced analyses will help establish baseline physiochemical conditions in pre-piracy Kluane Lake and inform a study design that investigates how these conditions have since changed. This will aid a larger investigation into the role of environmental conditions in Hg accumulation and biomagnification in sub-arctic lake food webs.

  • Name: Sofia Pereira
    Department: Biology
    Year Completed in Program: 4
    Supervisor: Bailey McMeans
    Title of Research Project: Seasonal and Interannual Variation of Total Mercury Levels in Lake Trout (Salvelinus Namaycush)
    Mercury is a heavy metal contaminant that exists in two forms in aquatic systems: inorganic mercury (Hg2+) and organic mercury, also known as methylmercury (CH3Hg+). Methylmercury is obtained by aquatic organisms through diet and is the only form of mercury that biomagnifies in aquatic food webs. Fishes, especially top predators like lake trout, tend to occupy higher trophic positions and therefore obtain most of their mercury content through diet as methylmercury, although a small portion of their total mercury is inorganic and acquired through the gills. Lake trout have known seasonal dietary shifts, which likely impacts seasonal variation in the mercury levels of these fishes, hence this study set out to explore how total mercury content in lake trout vary on a seasonal basis across a two year period in two lakes with different food web structures.

  • Name: Thomas Emmanuel Tsangaris
    Department: Chemical and Physical Sciences
    Year Completed in Program: 2
    Supervisor: Claudiu Gradinaru
    Title of Research Project: Integrative Modelling to Characterize the Intrinisically Disordered Protein 4E-BP2
    Various data from Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Small-Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) and Single Molecule Fluorescence Energy Transfer (smFRET) experiments were utilized in conjunction with the program ENSEMBLE (from the lab of Julie Forman-Kay located at SickKids) in order to obtain a set of fixed structures (an ensemble) in hopes of accurately characterizing the intrinsically disordered protein, 4E-BP2, in its non-phosphorylated (np) and 5-phosphorylated (5p) states. NMR and SAXS data were used as experimental restraints within ENSEMBLE and values from FCS and smFRET were used as validation. Using the ENSEMBLE method, ensembles were calculated in good agreement with paramagnetic relaxation enhancement (for 5p4E-BP2) and SAXS (for both 5p4E-BP2 and np4E-BP2) data while no ensemble calculated had good agreement with the chemical shifts (for 5p4E-BP2) measurements, emphasizing the need for a structure generator capable of producing 5p4E-BP2’s unique secondary structure. The approach yielded interesting results regarding the local and non-local structural behaviour of 4E-BP2, as well as calling attention to an apparent discrepancy that exists between the FCS and smFRET data. A protein structure generator that incorporates physical terms (such as electrostatics, hydrogen bonding and van der Waals repulsion) was also employed in the form of the FastFloppyTail (FFT) program (from Rosetta Commons software suite), which yielded impressive predictions of secondary structure in agreement with NMR measurements despite FFT not having any knowledge of the experimental data.



2017 Smarti Gras Poster Presentations