Youth explore science careers in program

University researchers give high school students an opportunity to experience investigations firsthand

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Seven grade 11 Kitsilano Secondary School (KSS) science students will be firing up the bunsen burners this summer as they get to work in UBC research labs as part of a science and technology career orientation program.

"The program provides students with a unique hands-on experience in a working research lab," says Helen Burt, professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences who is co-ordinating the supervised placement of students at campus labs. "They'll get to see what interdisciplinary collaborative investigations look like."

The students will be on campus in the first three weeks of July. Six students will work in Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences labs and one will assist Assoc. Prof. David Kitts in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.

Students will be part of research teams that include senior and post-doctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students. They will participate in the same lab safety and other information sessions provided to the UBC undergraduate researchers who are part of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences' Summer Student Research Program.

After volunteering for the high school elective course called Career Preparation and Planning, students must complete a practical placement of 100 hours in addition to their course work.

KSS career preparation co-ordinator, Liz Neil, has run the program for some time but had no science placements until last summer when Burt suggested stints in UBC labs.

"Students get insight into lab tasks and access to resources," says Al Slapsys, the KSS teacher who organizes science student placements. "There's no better preparation for their career planning." Burt, who is the Angiotech Professor of Drug Delivery, has been involved in bringing students from Lower Mainland schools to campus for several years. She will have two of the students in her own lab, learning how to manufacture drug delivery products such as films and pastes. Students will also analyse drugs in samples of product using sophisticated lab equipment. Other students will work in the Pharmaceutical Sciences labs of senior instructor Simon Albon, Prof. Keith McErlane and Assoc. Prof. Kish Wasan.