Edmonton Journal: International students contribute to U of A research

The way the brain operates fascinates Abigail Mendoza.

“The weird thing is, it makes us work but we don’t know exactly how it works,” Mendoza said.

The 23-year-old biomedical engineering student from Mexico is at the University of Alberta, looking at brain imaging to determine if there is any difference between male and female brains. She’s one of 34 researchers at the U of A who are part of the Mitacs Globalink program, which exposes international students to what Canadian universities have to offer.

“We don’t tend to get the same interest from abroad as a lot of schools in the States and the U.K. and Europe,” said Rod Annan, the interim CEO of Mitacs.

The program aims to bring advanced undergraduate students to Canada to show the quality of research available here. Program organizers hope the students return to Canada but, if they don’t, they can help raise the profile of Canadian universities, Annan said. “What they carry with them is this experience in Canada that they had very early on that has a significant impact on how they engage with the world,” Annan said. “They’re carrying a piece of Canada with them out into the world.”

Mendoza, along with computer science engineering researcher Pranjal Daga, 20, has been here for roughly three months — just enough time to catch the tail end of winter.“Actually, the weather is really good here,” Mendoza said. Daga, who is from India, is working on a smartphone app that helps Type 1 diabetes patients monitor their insulin. “It’s been a combination of fun and being tough,” he said.

Both of them said they’ve enjoyed their time in Edmonton, which comes to an end in around three weeks.“Canada has been amazing, the country is beautiful, the culture is incredible, people here are really nice with us,” Mendoza said. “There’s been many places to visit, it’s a city of festivals,” Daga added. Mendoza plans to start her master’s degree soon, to become a neuroscientist, and Daga is hoping to go on to a master’s degree in computer science. “What is interesting about it is a machine can learn from the data you provide it, so it thinks on its own,” Daga said.

By: Tyler Dawson

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