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Russ Dickson

Location: Niagra, ON

Award: Young Canadians


Year: 2002


Simplification of Antibodies via Computer Program

News Release

Sir Winston Churchill's Russ Dickson earns Manning Young Innovator Award at nationals

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (May 17, 2002) --- Grade 12 Sir Winston Churchill student Russ Dickson today walked away with more than $7,800 in cash awards, including being named a $4,500 Manning Young Canadian Innovator at the Canada Wide Science Fair held this week at the University of Saskatchewan campus.

Representing the Niagara Region Science Fair, Dickson will now be eligible to attend the annual national Manning Innovation awards program this Fall at a city yet to be determined. The awards are co-sponsored by Calgary-based Encana Corporation. In addition, Dickson won a Silver Medal and $300 accompaniment in the Biotechnology Division, a $2,500 award for use of computer technology, and a $500 cash award from the Chemical Institute of Canada.

There were 337 projects, involving 436 students in the culmination of science fairs that attracted more than 500,000 students across the country. Annual prizes presented at the Fair have a value exceeding $200,000.

Russ Dickson's project entitled Simplification of Antibodies Via Computer Program began when he taught himself the C computer programming language and then used it to write a unique, efficient and user-friendly program. That program contained a database of all amino acids and functions that simplified the three-dimensional structure of an antibody, as well as introduction of a code that adds bond angles and connectivity in order to increase the accuracy and efficiency of the study of antibody binding sites.

The program is already being employed in the field of theoretical molecular biochemistry at Brock University, where chemistry students have found output of the program's output to yield very accurate simulations.

"Since the successful completion of the human Genome Project, the study and documentation of all the genes in the human body, researchers now focus on a larger goal, the human proteome, which is the collection of proteins within all human cells and tissues," explained Dickson at his Science fair display.

"My computer program was designed to improve the efficiency of studies that attempt to understand antibodies, a specific type of protein. Further understanding of antibodies may yield solutions to serious health conditions like arthritis, autoimmune blood and autoimmune neurological diseases and may lay the foundation for the creation of synthetic antibodies to assist in fighting disease," he explained.

Dickson said research in this field of study is so cutting edge and specialized that there has not yet been a commercial computer program released that helps researchers solve the myriad of problems that can occur in the manual process toward simplification. He has made his program available to others at Brock University enabling other C programmers to quickly learn what each part of the program does in order to make improvements based on his already very useful, important and solid foundation.

"I hope that the continued improvement of my original program will continue to make this very important research more efficient, effective and yield results faster in order to help people faster," he explained.

"Russ Dickson has clearly demonstrated an innovative capability. It is important to receive recognition for his accomplishment to date and more importantly, the encouragement to pursue his interests," said Donald Park, Executive Director of the Manning Awards Foundation.

He said this is the 11th year that the Foundation has been part of the CWSF, adding he is proud to be able to track some of the significant contributions that earlier winners are now making to Canadian society.

The 2003 Canada Wide Science Fair will be held in Calgary.