Laura Bumbulis, an undergraduate student in combinatorics and optimization, hadn’t completed much science-related work since taking grade 11 biology.
That changed in 2021 as Bumbulis played a key role in improving efficiency at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) during her co-op work term.
For her performance during her co-op term in Spring 2021, Bumbulis is the Faculty of Math Co-op Student of the Year award winner.
As a bioinformatics analyst, Bumbulis worked with the Pancreatic Cancer Translational Research Initiative (PanCuRx). The goal of the program is to investigate mechanisms of tumour growth and identify genetic and biologic markers that can guide precision medicine for a specifically aggressive type of cancer called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).
“The people that I've had a chance to work with through my co-op terms, a lot of them are just really passionate about helping make the world a better place,” says Bumbulis, “Even just reading the news over the last couple of years, it's made me realize that being able to help people is something that's going to be key for any job that I pursue in the future.”
Bumbulis analyzed the usage of a tool the organization uses for sample tumour analysis. The tool was later removed from the pipeline, which helped save the organization critical time. She learned how to analyze cancer genome sequencing of tumour samples from patients with pancreatic cancer.
As part of her position, Bumbulis examined mutational signatures related to UV exposure, cigarette smoking and certain biological processes. Identifying these signatures helps to determine how cancer develops.
She also worked individually to revamp the algorithm that identified these mutational signatures and adapted it to new signatures that were recently discovered.
“That was a really gratifying project to be part of because it was on the cutting edge of cancer research and had the potential to directly impact patients’ health outcomes,” says Bumbulis.
Learn more about all the award winners on the CEE website.