By Matthew Brett

This is part of an ongoing article series to raise the profile of education, teaching and learning in the Faculty of Medicine and to advance the Faculty’s Education Strategic Plan (2017-22). 

Students from diverse disciplines are working together to launch the inaugural Rare Disease Interdepartmental Science Case Competition (RISC Competition) with a Meet and Greet on Thursday, September 19, to share details of the competition with interested students.

The competition is for undergraduate students in their second or third year from across the Life Sciences programs including Physiology, Pharmacology, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, and Anatomy and Cell Biology.

Faculty are invited to encourage students to register for the Meet and Greet, follow the event on Facebook, or contact the competition organizers via email at:

Students can sign up as “free agents” and be placed in an interdisciplinary team or form teams of their own, but there is a catch! To foster an interdisciplinary approach, a team cannot consist of more than two members from the same department.

“The fact that this is interdisciplinary – it’s a chance for students to come together and tackle a complex issue,” said Elya Quesnel, a recent graduate who helped initiate the project. “They only get a set of symptoms and they have to go and figure out what disease it is, why it’s happening, and what to do.”

Workshops will be held throughout the course of the academic year to help teams prepare for the case competition. Nearing the end of the academic year, each team will present their findings on the rare disease they worked on, its socioeconomic aspects, symptoms, treatment and therapies. A faculty panel will judge the presentations and pick winners!

“It’s a more interactive process where people can really talk to each other and use their own strengths to come together to formulate concrete results,” said Sara Nam, an undergraduate Life Sciences student managing communications for the competition. “It feels a lot more conducive to what we all want to do in the future rather than strictly reading a textbook over and over.”

As for faculty members, the competition organizers would love help promoting the competition to students and invite faculty to serve as case judges or provide cases and other ideas. Organizers are also hoping to connect with medical students and graduate students interested in acting as mentors, providing insight and guidance into applied research like this.

“It’s one thing to sit in a lecture hall and listen to a professor talk, but to actually apply this knowledge working with students from other departments is amazing, and it’s a great opportunity to network and interact with med students, grad students, librarians and profs,” said Michelle Yang, a third year Life Sciences student managing competition logistics.


September 6 2019