Cornwall teen biotechnology wiz headed to prestigious competition

Cornwall teen biotechnology wiz headed to prestigious competition
Jakhan Ponnudurai will in the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition in Ottawa on Monday

CORNWALL, Ont. – This is no ordinary science fair.

CCVS Grade 12 student Jakhan Ponnudurai will be competing in the Sanofi Biogenius Canada regional competition at the University of Ottawa’s Biosciences Complex on Wednesday (April 13).

“I’m into all aspects of science, but what I like about this competition is the microbiology aspect,” said Ponnudurai. “I want to go into biochemistry and do a lot of lab work in future years. I thought this would give me great experience. And it’s not overly complicated. It’s a nice first step.”

The 17-year-old told Seaway News in an interview it has taken months of extracurricular activities to prepare his project: ‘Induced Mutations in E. coli with Ampicillin.’ 

“There’s E. coli that we grew, and we found out at what concentration of the antibiotic Ampicillin that it would die at and we chose a concentration it wouldn’t die, and we continuously grew it in that stressful environment. Then we redid the test to find out what concentration it will die at,” explained Ponnudurai. “The results are in and the E. coli has a larger resistence to Ampicillin after growing in that stressful environment for seven days. That means, application-wise, an improper use of anti-biotics increases the bacteria’s resistance to it, which is dangerous and can create superbugs that are anti-biotic resistant.”

According ot its website, the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition nurtures young minds and fosters talent in the field of biotechnology.

At each regional exhibition, an expert panel of judges selects the winning projects using a select criteria.

Students are not only evaluated on the quality of their research, lab journal, and display, but are also questioned on their scientific knowledge as well as potential commercial applications of their research.

The challenge also gives Ponnudurai the opportunity to conduct research in a science lab under the guidance of mentors from the Cornwall campus of St. Lawrence College and St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences.

CCVS biology teacher Genny St. Germain said when she encouraged students to enter the competition in September 2015. Only one Raider stepped forward.

“He’s an excellent student; very keen learner, proactive with his work and studies. So when we set this up, he was definitely one of my first choices,” said St. Germain.

Her and Ponnudurai found out his proposal was accepted in December 2015.

Ponnudurai plans on studying biochemistry this fall at the University of Toronto.


According to its website, Sanofi Biogenius Canada began in the Toronto area in 1994, aimed at raising awareness among students, educators, and the public about the emerging field of biotechnology. Quickly gaining traction over the next two decades, the SBC now hosts annual competitions across every Canadian province, as well as extending its reach globally, with competitions in Australia and the U.S.

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