EPIC announces recipients of 2024 Inspire Summer Studentships and Researcher Mobility Awards
A smiling woman with a grey sweater and a smiling man wearing a toque and blue coat

April 30, 2024

By Betty Zou

The Emerging and Pandemic Infections Consortium is investing over $120,000 to support undergraduate students from underrepresented groups and enable immersive training experiences for graduate and postdoctoral trainees. The funding is being awarded through its 2024 Inspire Summer Studentships and Researcher Mobility Awards competitions.

The Inspire Summer Studentships offer paid summer research placements for Black and Indigenous undergraduates to engage in infectious disease research earlier in their academic pathways. In 2023, the program welcomed four Black students as part of its inaugural cohort, several of whom chose to continue working on their research projects after the program ended and into the next school year.

Recognizing the need for targeted opportunities like this, the 2024 Inspire competition expanded its eligibility to students at any Canadian university. Out of the 25 applications received, nine students — seven Black and two Indigenous — were invited to undertake an infectious disease-related summer research project with an EPIC faculty member at one of EPIC’s partner institutions. The projects range from studying future pandemic preparedness for gay, bisexual and queer men, to designing an intelligent robot to screen for infectious respiratory illnesses, to examining the effects of the vaginal microbiome on health.

Based on feedback from last year’s summer students, the 2024 Inspire program will include a mentorship component as well as a series of monthly events. Each student will be paired with a Black or Indigenous graduate student or postdoctoral fellow as a mentor for the summer. The monthly events aim to bring all the students and mentors together on a regular basis to foster connections and provide professional development opportunities.

Of the nine students taking part in the Inspire program this summer, four are undergraduate students at the University of Toronto. The others are pursuing their undergraduate studies at Ontario Tech University, Toronto Metropolitan University, Western University and York University.

The 2024 Researcher Mobility Awards are supporting 12 graduate and postdoctoral trainees travelling to locations outside of Toronto to complete collaborative field work or further their research training. This year’s awards are enabling trainees to go to places as far away as Australia, Colombia, Pakistan and Uganda to undertake essential research studies and bolster their skills.

These opportunities will help to strengthen EPIC’s ties to national and international research partners and bring back new knowledge and expertise to better the Toronto infectious disease research community.

“I am delighted that EPIC is able to provide exciting and enriching opportunities for trainees at all levels to enhance their infectious disease research experience,” says Scott Gray-Owen, academic director of EPIC and a professor of molecular genetics in U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

“We hope that these efforts will help to build a stronger, more diverse and inclusive research ecosystem not just here in Toronto, but around the world.”

Meet the recipients of the 2024 Inspire Summer Studentships and Researcher Mobility Awards on our website.