Teens gain insight into science careers

20 November 2012

MSFHR is proud to have partnered with Shad Valley for a third consecutive year on its annual summer enrichment program. With MSFHR’s support, two Shad Valley students were given the opportunity to intern at BC universities.

Jessica Wu, a grade 12 student at Burnaby North Secondary School and Lily Che, a grade 12 student at Semiahmoo Secondary School in Surrey, were placed with SFU and UBC respectively for four-week internships this summer.

The Shad Valley program takes place at 10 leading universities across Canada and includes roughly 500 students from grades 10 through 12 every year. During the four-week program, students live on campus and are exposed to a multitude of ideas and career possibilities. They are challenged with hands-on workshops and group projects, and encouraged to stretch their minds, hone their skills, and forge new friendships. Some students, like Wu and Che, apply for an optional internship program.

Wu was paired with Dr. Marinko Sarunic, associate professor in the School of Engineering Science at SFU and a 2008 MSFHR Scholar. Sarunic, whose research focuses on non-invasive, three-dimensional imaging techniques for the eye, was thrilled to have an intern. He saw the internship as an opportunity for Wu to be exposed to a world outside high school walls.

“I find that academic research is often not well represented in the high school curriculum. But in an internship setting like this, I could show Wu what’s beyond physics, math and biology class. It gave her an opportunity to see how all three work together as the three topics don’t overlap much in high school,” said Sarunic.

The internship also gave Wu an opportunity to share some of the things she learned. “I used mouse models to learn about different areas of the brain and then took what I learned and presented it to Marinko and his whole group. Although their expertise is in the eye (retinal imaging), I was able to use my new-found knowledge to help them make possible correlations between the two,” said Wu.

Shad Valley intern Lily Che (R) works with graduate student Andrea Wan in the lab of UBC researcher Dr. Brian Rodrigues

The second MSFHR-supported intern, Che, was paired with Dr. Brian Rodrigues, division chair of UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The fit was a natural one, as Che wants to become a pharmacist. “This internship was a precious opportunity to be involved in experiments that were way more sophisticated than what I could do in a high school lab,” said Che.

Rodrigues studies the complications of diabetes, particularly the impact of diabetes on the heart. For him, the teaching and mentoring process is a privilege. “I’ve been honoured to mentor some incredible students over the years and I always find the experience rewarding,” he said.

In addition to her new-found experience working in a university lab, Che learned valuable lessons about a science career,” There is much more hard work and failures involved than we think before a miraculous breakthrough in scientific research can happen.”

For more information, visit Shad Valley’s website.