Success stories: Recipients of the Canadian Blood Services Graduate Fellowship Program

Dr. Travis Sztainert

Canadian Blood Services’ Graduate Fellowship Program (GFP) is a gateway to pioneering research, scientific discovery, and impactful contributions to the future of healthcare. The Graduate Fellowship Program contributes to Canadian Blood Services’ mission to ensure the safety and efficacy of our nation's blood and related biologics by providing salary support for aspiring researchers pursuing graduate training in the field of blood transfusion and transplantation science. This competitive program offers a maximum value of $35,000 per year, which allows for $30,000 stipend for awardees and an additional $5,000 for flexible research expenses. Note, applications are currently being accepted for the 2023 competition. The deadline to apply is November 15th, 2023. 

Meet our current GFP recipients 

Let's shine a spotlight on current GFP recipients who are journeying through this program, leaving an indelible mark on the field.   

Nicolas Pereyra dos Santos: Sculpting the future of blood compatibility 

Nicolas, studying at the UBC Center for Blood Research and working in the lab of Dr. Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu, has presented his research at prestigious international conferences, including the International Society of Thrombosis and Hemostasis (ISTH) and the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies (AABB). He is working on developing polymer coatings that can be deposited on any material encountering the blood and is paving the way for universally blood-compatible devices by protecting devices from potentially detrimental effects of blood.  

Mahsa Yazdanbakhsh: Oxygen delivery improvement in blood transfusion 

Mahsa has garnered numerous awards and recognitions within the first two years of her PhD program in the lab of Dr. Jason Acker, including top abstracts at the Canadian Society for Transfusion Medicine (2023) and the Bell McLeod Educational Fund Award. Her research delves into the impact of red blood cell subpopulations on oxygen delivery, with a focus on cord blood, particularly from preterm infants. 

Alexandra Witt: Redefining clot-busting medicines 

Alexandra's research in the lab of Dr. Ed Pryzdial is revolutionizing clot-busting drugs by working on a safer alternative to Alteplase, the gold-standard clot-busting drug. In addition to her Graduate Fellowship Award, she won first place in Canadian Blood Services' Lay Science writing competition, showcasing her ability to communicate complex concepts to the general public. 

Richa Kaushal: Unlocking the secrets of cryopreservation 

Richa is a first prize winner in Poster Presentation at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology Annual Symposium. Her PhD research in the lab of Dr. Nicolas Pineault centers on investigating the impact of cryopreservation on the function of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells – cells that are responsible for generating all the different types of blood cells found in the body. 

Michael Verret: Bridging the gap in transfusion protocols 

Michael's achievements in the lab of Dr. Dean Fergusson include securing the 2nd position at the Student Research Day 2022 oral presentation competition and co-applying for research projects funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). His research focuses on generating consensus among international experts on intraoperative transfusion protocols and patient-centered outcomes after surgery. 

Ajay Pasala: Expanding blood stem cell horizons 

Ajay's work in the lab of Dr. Harinad Maganti involves understanding the mechanisms regulating hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and promoting the expansion of blood stem cells. His research on the role of specific proteins (GAS6 and FTO) in hematopoietic stem cell expansion has gained recognition among professors at the University of Ottawa. 

Erik Lamoureux: Shaping the future of healthcare 

Erik's academic excellence shines through multiple President's Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Awards. His diverse research contributions, studying at the UBC Center for Blood Research and working in the lab of Dr. Hongshen Ma, ranging from assessing red blood cell deformability to segmenting cardiac ultrasound videos, have earned him accolades and advanced his candidacy in July 2023. 

Zi Yan Chen: Unraveling the mysteries of alloimmune thrombocytopenia 

Zi Yan works in the lab of Dr. Heyu Ni and earned the Best Abstract Award in the Basic Science/Translational/Lab Medicine Category at the 15th Annual Hematology Academic Day at the University of Toronto in May 2022. Her project titled "Pathogenesis of Fetal and Neonatal Alloimmune Thrombocytopenia: Role of Maternal Immune Response on Fetus Survival and Megakaryocytes" investigates the fundamental processes and mechanisms that underlie the development and progression of Fetal and Neonatal Alloimmune Thrombocytopenia. 

These outstanding recipients of the Canadian Blood Services Graduate Fellowship Program are driving innovations, addressing critical research priorities, and making a profound impact on healthcare in Canada and beyond. Their stories exemplify the program's commitment to nurturing talent and advancing the frontiers of blood transfusion and transplantation science. 

How to join the ranks of success

Are you inspired by these accomplishments and eager to contribute to the future of healthcare as a young investigator in the field of blood transfusion and transplantation science? Submit your application to the Canadian Blood Services Graduate Fellowship Program now. Here's how to get started: 

  1. Review the research priorities: Ensure your proposed research aligns with the program's research priorities, including promoting appropriate blood product utilization, ensuring an adequate blood product supply, and optimizing blood product quality. 
  2. Prepare your application: Familiarize yourself with the application process, which includes providing a clear project proposal and demonstrating your commitment to advancing the field. 
  3. Submit your application: When you're ready, submit your application by November 15, 2023. Remember, the program is competitive, so make sure your proposal stands out. 
  4. Embrace the journey: If selected, you'll have the opportunity to pursue your research and join Canadian Blood Services’ research and education network.  

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation 

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact.  

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.