Scientists take over Abbott

JAC Hosts 2nd Annual Science Symposium

Georgina Hartono
Science & Tech Editor

What comes to mind when you hear the word “scientist?” Did you picture a frantic person donning a white lab coat with wild, frizzy hair who eagerly explains their research while clutching multiple test tubes? If you answered “yes” to the previous question, you are not alone. I too, believed that all scientists fit the mad genius stereotype. However, you would be surprised to find out that many scientific researchers roam our school halls, and may even share a classroom with you!

The Independent Research in Science course at John Abbott College offers the unique opportunity to students in the science program to participate in an ongoing research project. Over the course of 14 weeks, under the supervision of highly-experienced researchers, students conduct their own experiments. This semester, 18 students worked in labs and research centers affiliated with McGill, Concordia, John Abbott, the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal (IRCM), and District 3.

They will have the chance to share their results and their experiences with students, teachers, and other faculty members at the 2nd Annual Science Symposium, which will take place in the Anne-Marie Edwards building on April 28th. During this event, some will give formal presentations that are similar to TED Talks while others will present their posters. There will also be students from Vanier College who will present their projects during this inter-collegiate science fair.

I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Roberta Šilerová, the coordinator of the Independent Research Program, to ask her a few questions regarding the upcoming Science Symposium.

Q: What drove you to organize a class promoting independent research?

A: I personally have a great love of research, and was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to do research from an early age in my science “career,” and I adored it! So, I wanted to give Abbott students the same chance that I had been given all those years ago.

Q: What do you hope is the biggest takeaway from students taking part in this project?

A: There are really two questions that they might hope to have answered after participating in this course. One is whether they like research. Some will and some will not. Best to figure it out early on! There are still lots of other ways to pursue a career in science besides research. Then, if they do like research, were they passionate about what they were researching? Doing research is most fun when you feel you have some intuition about where the project is going.

Q: What are your long-term goals concerning the Independent Research Project?

A: Just keeping the course alive is the main goal! To do so, we need a bank of supervisors who in any given year would take on a student. Student interest is also vital. Without quality applicants for the course, it will not run. I need to be able to send out students with strong academic backgrounds and more importantly boundless enthusiasm! They are the ambassadors for the course and for the college.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Cribb
Photo courtesy of Debbie Cribb

If you want to find out how LED lights can be powered by harvested heat energy from compost, how polymerase chain reaction can be optimized by carbon nanotubes, or how exactly is drugging snails relevant to science, drop by the Symposium. You could ask the not-too-mad scientists questions about their projects!

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