It’s not your average internship.

Last week, a group of university students had the opportunity to stand alongside researchers from BC Cancer and showcase the work they’ve partnered on. The project was pitched in January and marks the first time we’ve had two teams from our Garage Internship program work concurrently on the same initiative. Here’s what I can tell you about the Holographic Cancer Cell Visualizer.

Fueled by advances in molecular biology, genomics and computer science, researchers at BC Cancer, Dr. Samuel Aparicio, Dr. Sohrab Shah and their colleagues, are applying a new technique known as single cell genomics to analyze the millions of individual cells that make up cancer. Their goal is to use this information to predict how individual cells within a patient’s tumour will respond to chemotherapy.

Microsoft recently formed a partnership with BC Cancer to propel this cutting-edge work. Using Azure, scientists are able to gather, analyze and collaboratively access vast amounts of data, accelerating the pace of research. Building from that here in Vancouver, we talked to Dr. Aparicio and Dr. Shah about utilizing the HoloLens platform to create mixed reality tools that can help researchers visualize the architecture of a tumour.

In January, Dr. Aparicio and Dr. Shaw pitched an idea to the Garage interns here at Microsoft Vancouver. They wanted to build an interactive prototype that would allow scientists to see a tumour at single cell resolution. The project was selected, and the team got to work.

Using the HoloLens platform, the interns created an interactive application that researchers can use to visualize a tumour as a 3D hologram. The tech provides an opportunity to identify different cell types and explore the spatial relationship between them – something that has never before been possible.

“These holograms, you can walk around them, you can naturally interact with them, point at things and collaborate with others,” notes Cydney Nielsen, a Microsoft mentor working with the interns.

The team completed their four-month internship in April with a working prototype, but the project didn’t stop there. Six more interns picked up where the first team left off, looking at user feedback and adding functionality for improved collaboration within the application.

With two more months left in this phase of the project, there are still plenty of possibilities for where it will go. For cancer researchers, it’s the very tip of what’s possible when we push technological boundaries. And for the interns, it’s an opportunity to be at the leading edge of digital transformation.

“We are trying to push that front forward, knowing that the best thing today will be something completely different tomorrow,” explained Melissa Lee, Garage Intern Winter 2018.

We often point out that the Garage program isn’t your average internship. University students from across the country are challenged with real-world needs. They’re responsible for every aspect, from managing the project milestones to addressing customer feedback.

Recruiting for our 2019 cohorts begins in August, so if you know a university student in Canada who is looking for a challenging opportunity, they can read more and apply here.