VIU science graduate earns $17,500 scholarship

July 7, 2012 - 9:00pm

Angeline de Bruyns, Bachelor of Science graduate (major in biology and minor chemistry) at Vancouver Island University, has been awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s award worth $17,500.

“My family and I were ecstatic when we heard the news,” says de Bruyns. “Receiving this award truly means all my hard work and commitment while studying at VIU has paid off. I feel like the CIHR Scholarship is a testament to my dedication throughout these past four years, the culmination of my undergraduate university career.”

De Bruyns sees the scholarship as further reassurance to her parents that they made the right decision to immigrate to Canada from Namibia and offer their children greater educational opportunities. She is also grateful to VIU faculty and staff members who encouraged her to apply for the prestigious award.

“Without them spurring me on and reassuring me that it couldn't hurt to apply, I might never even have thought about going through the application process. Their encouragement and belief in me has taken me a long way.”

Biology Professor Sue Sanders says de Bruyns clearly earned support from VIU.

“I have never encountered anyone so dedicated to her academic career,” says Sanders. “Angeline exemplifies excellence, dedication, and a passion for science that is rare and she is a most deserving recipient of this prestigious award.”

De Bruyns will work under the supervision of Dr. David Dankort at McGill University to undertake her proposed cancer research which focuses on genes and melanoma malignancy and metastasis.

The full title of her research is: “Determination of genes downstream of the BRAF oncogene and PTEN tumour suppressor gene responsible for melanoma malignancy and metastasis in melanoma cell culture and mouse knockout models.”

De Bruyns applied for the scholarship in January through the internal selection process at VIU which was conducted by the VIU CIHR Awards Selection Committee. The Committee received three stellar applications for review and could only nominate one applicant to compete in the national competition. As a result, de Bruyns was one of 184 high-calibre students across Canada offered this prestigious award.

De Bruyns plans to head to Montreal in late August to begin her two-year master’s program. In the meantime, she is working in the genomics lab of VIU’s Centre for Shellfish Research (CSR).

“I continue learning about lab techniques and protocols on a daily basis,” says de Bruyns. “I am absolutely thrilled that I am still learning so much about the practical side of molecular biology. The knowledge and practical skills I'm gaining while doing research in the CSR will be very useful for when I start my own research for my master's at McGill."

De Bruyns, a graduate of Nanaimo’s Dover Bay Secondary School, has earned an array of scholarships, awards and bursaries for academic excellence. Her top marks in high school entitled her to a $2,000 entrance scholarship to VIU in 2008. Her strength in academics earned her a full tuition scholarship through the President’s Scholarship for Continuing Students.

In May 2011, she won a $4,500 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Undergraduate Student Research Award to gain research experience with Dr. Helen Gurney-Smith. That award was topped-up and paid her salary as a research assistant in the Centre for Shellfish Research genomics lab during the summer and fall of 2011. This spring, de Bruyns was awarded a $500 scholarship as the VIU Biology Department’s most outstanding student and received the $250 Michael L. Warsh Law Corp. Undergraduate Research Award.

In addition to her science studies, de Bruyns has been actively involved in campus activities and initiatives including Campus Recreation, the Student Leadership Program, World University Services of Canada, Model United Nations Club and Awareness of Climate change through Education and Research project. As a volunteer tutor with Students Offering Support, de Bruyns and 16 other SOS participants travelled to Costa Rica to build a community centre in a small jungle village.

“These activities have made my VIU experience so special, and are the reason why graduating this year is bittersweet,” says de Bruyns. “I will miss VIU very much because I loved how easy it was to get involved. Everyone was so inviting and friendly. These activities have broadened my university experience to more than just academics.”

As she approached graduation in June, De Bruyns expressed gratitude to VIU researchers who have shown her the challenges and rewards of lab work.

“I chose to come to VIU because of the small class sizes. I think it’s worthwhile to develop lasting relationships with your professors while you are here. Their advice, guidance and expertise are often invaluable.”

“These relationships are enhanced as a result of VIU’s small lab classes and the extra one-on-one time with professors and technicians allows students to hone in on their lab skills at an early stage of their university careers.”

De Bruyns has been interested in science since high school. While VIU offered the chance for her to continue studies close to home, it also opened up a world of possibilities.

“I wouldn’t have done my undergraduate studies anywhere else,” she says. “The professors in my program are so passionate about what they teach. They inspire me to pursue career goals which I am truly passionate about.”

As de Bruyns pursues a Master of Science degree at McGill, her goal is to become a doctor and possibly pursue a career in cancer research.

Sanders and her VIU colleagues expect they will be hearing more about de Bruyns’ achievements in the future.

"Angeline's capacity to focus, to integrate knowledge, to organize her thoughts and her time, to communicate, and to pursue her goals with determination, is unsurpassed in my opinion,” says Sanders. “I was extremely impressed by her outstanding work during her undergraduate degree and I am confident that she will go on to make amazing scientific discoveries that Canadians will be proud of."

For more information:

Research and Scholarly Activity at VIU:

Bachelor of Science at VIU:

Canadian Institutes of Health Research:

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