Students check out science possibilities

Three Red Deer students are donning lab coats for their summer jobs as research assistants.

Three Red Deer students are donning lab coats for their summer jobs as research assistants.

Hillary Wilson from Notre Dame High School is spending six weeks with the Heritage Youth Researcher Summer (HYRS) Program at the University of Calgary.

Emilee Anderson and Shawna Dawson, both from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, are at the University of Alberta for six weeks for the Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST) Summer Research Program.

Both programs introduce students to research studies to help them make career decisions.

Wilson is conducting research in the area of knee surgery and osteoarthritis. Anderson is studying a class of drugs used in cancer chemotherapy and Dawson is analyzing songbird vocalizations for the psychology department.

“I was interested in fitness and nutrition,” said Wilson, 17, who started her research on July 4.

“I know lots of people who complain about arthritis. It is a very common issue and affects a lot of Canadians. ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstructions are common among athletes.”

Her lab work has included examining tissue samples under the microscope.

“You image them, take them from the microscope to the computer, and then we do what we call grading. There is a scoring system and you basically analyze the tissue and see how bad the damage is.”

She said lab staff give students as real an experience as possible.

“I never really considered (research) before but I’m definitely thinking it might be an option,” Wilson said.

Dawson, 16, said working in a lab has been awesome.

Part of her time was spent isolating notes in songbird calls that will be used in teaching them to learn a task. Another one of her jobs is to feed the research chickadees.

She also had the opportunity to visit different university labs and speak to both university students and graduates which has opened her eyes to post-secondary possibilities.

“I’ve known for about a year that I probably want to pursue science in university. But trying choose a particular area has been kind of difficult,” Dawson said.

Forty students were chosen to participate in the WISEST program at the U of A, and a total of 49 students are with the HYRS program at the U of A, the U of C and the University of Lethbridge.

“A lot of people think they won’t be able to get into the program because so many people apply for it and it’s a high level of competition, but you should definitely take the opportunity. There are so many experiences you get here that you couldn’t get anywhere else,” Wilson said.

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