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Top 20 under 20 Science and Technology winners. (from bottom left clockwise): Jennifer Cloutier, Yale Michaels, Grant Sparling, Michael Lim, Rui Song.

The research interests of these award recipients range from cancer treatments to a flu vaccine pill. Follow the links below to read profiles about more winners.

Youth in Motion ( www.youth-in-motion.ca) is the non-profit organization that runs the Top 20 Under 20 awards program. A national panel selects the winners. Their ages are listed as what they were on Dec. 31, 2010.

Full list of winners:

  • Ivneet Bains, 19, Surrey, B.C.
  • Jennifer Cloutier, 19, Ottawa
  • Darren Cole, 16, Toronto
  • Corey Cook, 17, Winnipeg
  • Sameer Dhar, 17, Edmonton
  • Megan Fultz, 19, Winnipeg
  • Tiffany Harrington, 17, Oshawa
  • Mohsin Khan, 19, Toronto
  • Ben Kim, 18, Mississauga, Ont.
  • Rita-Clare Leblanc, 16, Halifax
  • Michael Lim, 19, West Vancouver, B.C.
  • Yale Michaels, 19, Winnipeg
  • Adam Moscoe, 19, Ottawa
  • Madison Schill, 17, Oshawa, Ont.
  • Corey Sherwood, 19, Brampton, Ont.
  • Rui Song, 15, Saskatoon
  • Grant Sparling, 18, Blyth, Ontario
  • Caitlin Stockwell, 17, Victoria, B.C.
  • Jacinthe Veillette, 19, Saint-Tite, Que.
  • Anoop Virk, 17, Coquitlam, B.C.


Jennifer Cloutier, 19, Ottawa

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Jennifer Cloutier was just six years old when the car she and her family were riding in was hit by another vehicle while they travelled from Ottawa to North Bay, Ont., to visit her grandparents.

But the accident that injured her parents and left Ms. Cloutier and her younger brother Robert, now 17, without the use of their legs also helped set her on the path to meeting and helping others with physical and health challenges.

"It's had a pretty big impact on my life - I was very lucky to have survived that accident," says Ms. Cloutier, now 19 and in her second year at Harvard College, majoring in human developmental and regenerative biology.

Ms. Cloutier met other young people with medical challenges in hospitals and through sports organizations like the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiers and SkiAbility Ottawa. Now an elite athlete on Canada's National Adaptive Water Ski Team, she will compete at the world championships this August in Ohio.

Ms. Cloutier lists as another major accomplishment her work in helping get more women and girls interested in science. She helped organize a National Symposium for the Advancement of Women in Science (NSWAS) in February at Harvard's campus, and is the newly elected president of the organization Women and Science at Harvard/Radcliffe.

Born in Toronto and raised in Ottawa, Ms. Cloutier spent months in hospitals and rehabilitation following the accident that killed the couple in the car that hit her parents' vehicle. She uses a wheelchair for mobility, but says it has never hindered her classroom or laboratory work, including at Ottawa's Immaculata High School, where she aced her math and science courses.

Last summer, she spent more than 80 hours a week doing lab stem cell work aimed at helping people with atherosclerosis.

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"I always wanted to be a physician, but have found out I love research and am torn, so now may want to try to meld them together."

Michael Lim, 19, West Vancouver, B.C.

After witnessing both grandfathers and an aunt lose their lives to cancer, Michael Lim decided to target the disease as his career.

"I certainly hope that I will be able to relieve the burden of cancer for patients through compassionate clinical care, outreach, advocacy and research," says Mr. Lim who is currently a medical student at The University of Manchester in Britain.

Frustrated by the basic science he was learning in high school, and knowing that real-world scientific research would be far more interesting, Mr. Lim managed to convince a University of British Columbia professor to allow him to work in his microbiology lab during the summer. He was in Grade 10.

Mr. Lim has since gone on to become an integral part of a team of scientists led by Professor Ashok Venkitaraman at the University of Cambridge and has co-authored a paper on pancreatic cancer published in the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Cell. As he continues his research, he hopes the findings could also be applicable to other types of cancer.

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He's also developing a national oncology conference so medical students across Britain can present their research.

More recently, Mr. Lim has been awarded a Cancer Research UK graduate studentship to embark upon a PhD at the London Research Institute - while pursuing his medical studies at University College London.

Yale Michaels, 19, Winnipeg

Cancer treatments can be toxic to the body because they don't just kill cancer cells but also healthy cells.

Yale Michaels came up with a technique he calls Smart shRNA designed to detect which cells are diseased and turn on a therapeutic drug only in those cells. He has two provisional patents for the technique.

Experiments showed the drug could be turned on in cells that had a disease indicator gene in them, and be turned on less so in healthy cells.

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"There's a big difference between being able to work in a Petri dish and use it clinically," he cautions, and fine-tuning on the process remains to be done, but the hope is there that this technique can diminish harmful side effects of cancer treatment.

The technique can also be used to look for a specific disease or pathogen, such as a bacterium, he says.

Mr. Michaels started getting involved in biology in Grade 7 at Grant Park High School in Winnipeg, and a teacher suggested it would be a good idea for him to work with a professor in a lab.

After e-mailing professors at the University of Manitoba, he helped with biological research there, and then, in Grade 10, he started up his Smart shRNA project with a professor there.

He is now at Harvard, studying molecular and cellular biology, and has worked on cancer research at Harvard's medical school. He hopes to become a doctor, researcher and astronaut.

Rui Song, 15, Saskatoon

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Many teenagers' days are filled with the usual pre-adult preoccupations: going to the mall, playing video games and madly texting their friends.

For 15-year-old Rui Song, however, a good day is spent in the lab working with biotechnology tools to improve agricultural potential and increase the world's food supply.

Ms. Song, a Grade 10 student from Saskatoon's Walter Murray Collegiate Institute, already boasts a résumé that would surely impress even the most qualified scientist: She was the youngest ever competitor and champion of the 2010 National Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge, a finalist at the 2010 Sanofi-Aventis International BioGENEius Competition, and won the 2010, 2009 and 2008 Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge Saskatoon Regional Competitions.

For that impressive win at the Nationals last year, Ms. Song and a partner developed a genetic method for differentiating lentil pathogens.

"I think some of that interest comes from living in Saskatchewan where there's a large agricultural sector," she explains. "I always thought it would be really cool to be able to work in a research lab and do things out of the classroom that would have positive consequences for the world."

She has dreams of one day working as a researcher in the life sciences, and has her sights set on solving some very pressing problems.

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"I think that hunger is one of the main problems I'd like to solve," she says. "Hunger is the world's main health risk and it kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. If I was able to do something to help, that would be awesome."

Grant Sparling, 18, Blyth, Ontario

When Grant Sparling attended Shad Valley International in the summer of 2010, he and the other 250 high school students at the science, technology and entrepreneurship camp were given a challenge to create a product for Canada's aging population. That challenge resulted in a medical innovation that could get big pharmaceutical firms knocking on his door.

"We found some information online that said fear of needles increases as people age. We also found that people age 65 and over are at the highest risk of influenza," recalls Mr. Sparling, a student at St. Anne's Catholic Secondary School in Clinton, Ont., who headed a small team at Shad Valley.

Team member Rameez Virji came up with a remarkably simple innovation: a capsule that protects the vaccine until it reaches the small intestine, where it can be absorbed.

Known as Formulation V720, the product is protected by a provisional patent, which Mr. Sparling had organized through a patent lawyer. A full patent is expected to be in place by this summer. Mr. Sparling, who is president at a student-owned company known as Medicine for a Better Tomorrow, hopes to sell the patent to a pharmaceutical firm and collect royalties.

"This is the first non-invasive vaccine that we found," says Mr. Sparling, adding that legal advisers believe there is a greater-than-50-per-cent chance of receiving the full patent.

Mr. Sparling is going to Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., this fall and is hoping to pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon. "I've always enjoyed learning about the human body and helping people. Orthopedic surgery is a combination of those things."

Profile writers: Chris Atchison, Marlene Habib, Marjo Johne, Michael Ryval, Christina Varga, Kira Vermond.

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