On Campus News

A lot goes on between issues of the Green & White.

A clean bill of health for the College of Medicine

David Stobbe

After hosting a full-site accreditation visit in fall 2017, Saskatchewan’s medical school has achieved full accreditation of its undergraduate program from the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS).

“The college has worked very hard on improvements in our medical doctor program and we are highly encouraged by this positive acknowledgement,” said Dean of Medicine Dr. Preston Smith. “In particular, CACMS does not require a follow-up visit, which is a strong indication of confidence in our team and our program.”

The college’s work in recent years to improve areas of student services and support, curriculum, faculty engagement and governance were successful, with clean ratings from the accrediting body.

Low oxygen therapy has high potential for spinal cord patients

A new type of therapy is showing promise for people and animals with spinal cord injuries.

Acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) therapy involves exposing patients to low oxygen levels intermittently for short time periods. This action triggers a chain of events in the nerve cells or neurons as they react to the mild stress, according to Valerie Verge, director of the Cameco MS Neuroscience Research Center and a professor in the College of Medicine.

In the study, Verge—along with Dr. Gillian Muir from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and Gordon Mitchell from the University of Florida—looked at cellular changes in response to AIH combined with rehabilitative training. Verge and Muir are optimistic that AIH therapy will have a positive impact on a wide range of injuries and conditions that affect the nervous system.

Bright young minds

David Stobbe

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships have been awarded to four top University of Saskatchewan PhD students working in health, water and feral horse conservation research.

“It is a great achievement for these four exceptional students to be chosen as Vanier Scholars,” said Karen Chad, USask vice-president research. “We are very proud of these students who have demonstrated the leadership skills and research accomplishments to become tomorrow’s leaders.”

With $150,000 awarded to each student over three years, the Vanier Scholarship is a competitive federal program that recognizes top-tier doctoral students who demonstrate excellence in academia, research impact and leadership at Canadian universities.

International honours


Graduate student Kalhari Bandara Goonewardene is one of five worldwide recipients of the inaugural BioOne Ambassador Award, which recognizes early-career researchers excelling at communicating the importance and impact of their research beyond their discipline.

Goonewardene is a PhD student in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research focuses on raising healthy chickens, something vital to human health and economic growth. She tested an antibiotic alternative that, via a nebulizing chamber, delivered a synthetic DNA as an aerosol directly into the lungs of newly-hatched chicks. In turn, the treatment stimulated the chicks’ front line defense mechanisms and significantly protected them against a deadly dose of E. coli.

The next phase of Goonewardene’s research involves partnering with engineers to develop a large-scale poultry nebulizer to test the findings in an industrial setting.

The left hand does know what the right is doing

Amanda Davenport

PhD student Justin Andrushko (MSc’17) and kinesiology professor Jonathan Farthing (BSc’99, MSc’02, PhD’06) have found that when you immobilize an arm, exercising the same free limb on the other side of the body may be key to maintaining strength and muscle size in the immobilized limb.

For their study, Andrushko and Farthing asked participants to wear casts that immobilized their wrists for a month. Half of the students did wrist-flexion training on their non-casted arm, and half did not, so that the researchers could compare changes in muscle
strength and size in the immobilized wrists. Students who did the training preserved the strength of their wrist muscles in the casted arm, while in the non-exercising group the strength of wrist muscles decreased by 20 per cent.

These findings, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, may one day be applied to standard of practice for injury recovery. The work was also featured in a recent article in The New York Times.

Alumna granted cannabis retail licence


A week before her spring graduation from the Edwards School of Business, Cierra Sieben-Chuback (BCOMM’18) was awarded one of seven licences in Saskatoon—and one of only 51 permits granted in the province from 1,502 applications—to establish a retail cannabis store.

For the 23-year-old, it was the culmination of a whirlwind week of completing her business plan and filing her request for proposal before the province’s April deadline, all while studying for her final exams.

Sieben-Chuback is preparing to put her commerce degree to good use by establishing her first business and getting in on the ground floor of the potentially lucrative recreational cannabis market. She has trademarked her business name, Living Skies Cannabis, drawing on the Saskatchewan licence plate slogan, and is now working on opening her store before the end of the year, backed by her father and local business owner Glenn Chuback.

New sport science and health hub

David Stobbe

This May, alumni and long-time donors Ron (BE'62) and Jane (BEd'62) Graham made a donation of $2,068,000 to establish and build a sport science and health facilitywithin Merlis Belsher Place.

The new facility, which will be named the Ron and Jane Graham Sport Science and Health Centre, will serve to enhance the performance, conditioning, recovery and education of athletes. The facility will support research in injury prevention, nutrition and conditioning, and performance and recovery.

The Ron and Jane Graham Sport Science and Health Centre will also offer a range of physiological, biomechanical and psychological performance assessments and sport psychology coaching for student-athletes and athletes across Saskatchewan.

All fun and games

Martin Lipman

Computer science professor Regan Mandryk, whose ground-breaking research involves developing digital game technology to assess mental health, has been awarded one of Canada’s highest honours for young scientists.

Mandryk is among six university researchers across Canada who received the prestigious E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Mandryk will be awarded $250,000 over two years to advance her research, enabling her to devote time and energy entirely to the work. In addition, the fellowship will provide USask up to $90,000 a year for a replacement to perform her teaching and administrative duties for the duration.

Working with industry partners such as gaming giant Electronic Arts, Mandryk has done pioneering work in using elements of digital games to design interventions in both physical and mental health.

Preserving history

University of Saskatchewan researchers in archaeology and anthropology are assisting the Muskowekwan First Nation and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to preserve the last remaining residential school in Saskatchewan.

They’ll join researchers from the University of Alberta at the Muskowekwan Residential School to examine a number of sites that are believed to be the final resting place for several Indigenous children who attended the school.

Located near Lestock, Sask., the school has been left in its original condition. Survivors and community members previously voted against its demolition, electing to leave it intact as a reminder to future generations.

Dig it


Ever since she was a young girl, Lauren Rooney has wanted to be an archaeologist.

Now an archaeology student in the College of Arts and Science, Rooney is working toward her dream. Although she is only in her second year of studies, she has already made a significant discovery.

In May 2018, Rooney was at the Wolf Willow dig site at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a national historic site located five kilometres outside of Saskatoon. It was there that she discovered an Iniskim, a bison-shaped figure collected by the Blackfoot people. While the figure is about 800 years old, it is made from a fossil that is more than 66 million years old, according to Wanuskewin.

“I was very excited when I found the Iniskim. I knew it was going to be something special as soon as I picked it up. It was my first major find of the field school so, no matter what it was, I was going to be over the moon about it,” said Rooney.

No bones about it


Strand by strand, and layer by layer, Daniel Chen (PhD’02) is inching closer to repairing and rebuilding bones with the use of 3D printing technology.

A leader in the exciting and emerging field of tissue engineering, Chen’s interdisciplinary research team is working with the 3D-Bioplotter (printer) in the University of Saskatchewan’s Bio-fabrication Laboratory to develop new ways to help restore bone function in individuals who have suffered serious trauma, infection, disease or defects.

Chen was one of 12 USask researchers who were awarded Collaborative Innovation Development grants in March from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, receiving $50,000 in funding over the next 18 months for his new project. Chen’s team is bioengineering bone substitutes (known as scaffolds) and employing the world-class imaging technology of Canada’s only synchrotron in the Canadian Light Source facility on USask's campus to track the effectiveness of their new bone regeneration strategies.

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