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Experiences with a Sophisticated Project

By Tanielle Johnson and introduced by Gerry Ward

At this year’s Canada Wide Science Fair in Ottawa, I met Taneille Johnson. Not only is she an outstanding science student, she is also BC Assistant Provincial SMARTS Coordinator and the Science Education Expert for the Youth Advisory Group to the Canadian Commission to UNESCO. I am so impressed with the quality of Taneille’s research project, and in awe of her level of dedication and involvement in the greater scientific community. I was very pleased that she sent me an accounting of her experiences with Science Fair, and an abstract of her project: Amplification of hTERT cDNA for Transient Transfection With Mammalian Cells. Tanielle's project was the well deserving winner of The University of Western Ontario Scholarship.

Image of Tanielle Johnson

For my project I studied at the University of Northern BritishColumbia, and worked there for 17 days with a professor. During my time in the labs I was able to learn more about biochemistry and genetics, while exploring different scientific processes. Living up in the north does not limit the amount of research that one can strive for.

My experiences with science fair have been incredible. This year was the third CWSF that I have attended. The calibre of projects and the amazing people that I met is unlike any other experience that I have had. Science Fair is a GREAT vector to explore your interest in Science. Through mentorships and personal exploration, you can achieve a greater appreciation for science. Every student should have the opportunity to experience Science Fairs, because I can almost guarantee that if one delves deep enough into a project, there is no telling where it can lead.


SMARTS (Student Mentorship Association Regarding Technology and Science) is a program designed to connect youth to each other across the country with science. It is governed by a youth executive council across the country, with additional correspondents for each separate region. SMARTS is a way to aid the spread of science opportunities for all elementary and high school students.

SMARTS promotes science mainly for grades 7 to 12, in general science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Through the VECTOR initiative (The YSF- Youth Science Foundation central database for events) opportunities for science events are listed and given to regional correspondents. It is then the regional correspondent's duty to inform teachers and their region about the events. Teachers may also access VECTOR independently. SMARTS consists of Regional Correspondents, and School Correspondents. Each play a different role in engaging science within your community.
More information about SMARTS is available on the SMARTS website:

Amplification of hTERT cDNA for Transient Transfection With Mammalian Cells


The telomerase enzyme is a specialized reverse transcriptase responsible for telomere regulation and stability. Telomerase adds a specific repeat: TTAGGG to the 3' end of telomeres. Telomerase has been studied in correlation to cancer, and is primarily known to help maintain telomere lengths in some cancer types, allowing continuous cell division without senescence. The telomerase enzyme is a possible target for cancer therapy and pharmaceuticals. Recombinant hTERT DNA in pCMV6-XL4 vector was amplified using bacteria and then plasmid DNA was isolated. Amplified DNA integrity was checked by electrophoresis and quantification. hTERT cDNA was introduced into human breast cancer cells by transfection. Cell counting was used to measure the efficiency of hTERT on cell proliferation. Four days after the transfection, hTERT transfected cells showed signs of elevated growth and cell density compared to the control. Control cells grew at a maintained rate over the entire course of transfection. The hTERT enzyme appears to have a slight effect on cellular growth and stability. Additional experiments will need to be done to further prove if hTERT has specific effects on cellular growth and stability. The hTERT enzyme does not appear to have any adverse effects on cell proliferation during a transient transfection time period.

Experiences with a Sophisticated Project

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