An end to infection?

For medical microbiologist and What Matters Now London participant Ana Sanchez, the day will come when parasite infections will be found only in the history books.

Right now, some 900 million people live with roundworm infections worldwide. But a concerted global movement is underway to tackle roundworm infections and other tropical neglected diseases (TND) affecting mainly the “poorest of the poor.”

“Perhaps in a future not too far away, TNDs will be controlled or eradicated, and every time someone would be diagnosed with any of these infections, they will be on the evening news,” says Sanchez, a Community Health Sciences associate professor who studies parasitic diseases that target vulnerable populations in developing countries.

Sanchez will be sharing her insights and details of her research in a panel discussion to be presented Nov. 26 by Research Matters, an Ontario-wide campaign that connects university researchers to the broader public.

Co-ordinated by the Council of Ontario Universities, the basic premise of Research Matters is that the research that occurs at Brock and the other 20 publicly funded member universities makes a real difference in the lives of real people, here and around the world.

“There has never been a time in history when university research has been so crucial to so many pressing issues,” says the campaign’s website. “Ontario university researchers do the work that makes it possible for government, business, and community leaders to make smart, informed decisions about a huge range of issues.”

Yet, aside from the occasional headline, most people are unaware of the activities of university researchers, who “work behind the scenes, steadily progressing toward ambitious new ideas… that improve public policies and private practice, advance technology, foster a healthier, happier, more prosperous society, build communities, and generally make life more interesting.”

Each year, the campaign presents five events throughout Ontario where researchers share their work with the public. Sanchez will be speaking at the London Children’s Museum in London, Ont. Nov. 26, 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Also, the Research Matters website contains stories and social media posts detailing innovative, on-the-edge research being conducted across the province in a wide range of areas.

Supporting and publicizing the Research Matters campaign at Brock University are two student ambassadors, Julia Polyck-O’Neill and Jory Korobanik.

“Universities generate the majority of research that shapes the way we live our lives,” says Polyck-O’Neill, an interdisciplinary humanities PhD student who sits on the Research and Scholarship Policy Committee.

“I’m passionate about research mainly because it promotes growth and innovation on a wide range of scales, from local to global.”

Polyck-O’Neill encourages researchers – particularly students – to plug into the bigger picture.

“Even as students, we can sometimes overlook the idea that the choices we make in our research can have an impact on our everyday surroundings,” she says.

“There is so much left to discover, and so many relevant questions our work can address that can improve our quality of life and that of others. This is why research is exciting for everyone.”

Korobanik echoes Polyck-O’Neill.

“It’s important for graduate students to break down the silos so that we’re aware of each others’ work,” says Korobanik, physics PhD student and president of the Graduate Students Association. “By raising awareness and sharing with one another, we can broaden our horizons.

“Letting undergraduates know about the good research being done here and at other universities across the province will hopefully inspire them.”

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