British Columbia Man Wins National Research Award

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You might not understand what Joel Pel does, but you might well see the results of his research on a future episode of the television show CSI.

Pel, 27, a member and elder at First Christian Reformed Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, won a Canadian Innovation Challenge Award.

Pel recently received his Ph.D. in engineering from the University of British Columbia. Through his research and thesis he developed a brand-new technique and instrument for purifying and extracting DNA from samples.

The technique and tool will allow researchers, doctors, and others to extract DNA where they couldn’t before, either because the DNA was contaminated or was insufficient in quantity.

Pel explains the practical side: “An example of the technology is to take a sample like blood and extract what might be a very small amount of DNA from it, which might indicate the presence of a certain disease. The technology has potential to be used in medical clinics as a very fast and sensitive technique for detecting disease and enabling early treatment.”

Pel has since partnered with Boreal Genomics, a company that continues with the research.

Pel was one of 11 finalists to receive awards. The awards are intended to encourage graduate students to appreciate real-world applications of their research. Students must be nominated by their university for demonstrating an entrepreneurial aspect to their research.

Pel flew to Ottawa to receive his award from the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Canada’s minister of state for science and technology.

Goodyear recognized all the winners as young Canadian scientists “bringing new discoveries into the marketplace so that Canadians can benefit through a higher quality of life and a stronger economy.”

 “It was certainly an honor,” reflected Pel. “I have worked with a great supervisor and team at UBC, without whom this would not have been possible.”

About the Author

Jenny deGroot is a teacher/librarian in Langley, British Columbia.

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