Since its inception in 2003, the Gene Researcher for a Week program has been a tremendous success. In the first twelve years of the program, 324 students have participated in this unique learning experience. Having been exposed to the immense potential of human genetics, many of these students have gone on to pursue careers in human genetics research or in the medical field.
This program could not run without the support of our host labs and their terrific teams. It is truly a win-win situation for the students, the host labs and the future of human genetics research in Canada. Our scientific hosts tell us:
“I must say that in all my 10+ years of scientific mentorship experience, the Gene Researcher for a Week Program stands out in my mind as the most valuable and impactful lab experience for the students –most particularly because the care taken to ensure the students were adequately prepared prior to coming into the lab, and because this program is for a full week, rather than just an afternoon, or once a month (as in other programs mentioned above). Certainly for myself, it was such a blessing to have a small group learning environment with two such extraordinary young people – I had the opportunity to instruct them and to learn from them in a depth that would have been impossible in a large group setting.
On the other side, both of my students came to the lab with the best attitude possible – they recognized the privilege it is to participate in this program, and worked extremely hard to learn and excel in their research projects. The buddy system was excellent, as they were able to celebrate their victories together, commiserate with one another when they made mistakes, and no doubt they felt more comfortable with a friend in such a new and challenging learning environment.”
“It is impossible to overstate the importance of small group scientific mentoring of our young people – to have scientists encourage the next generation of Canadian scientists, and also, to simply be older people cheering the young ones on.
At heart, this program encapsulates to me all the best of what it means to be Canadian – to work together unselfishly and joyfully for the future good of our greatest national treasures – our young people.”
Sunny Hartwig, PhD
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island
“My laboratory has hosted a total of 10 high school students who have participated in the Gene Researcher for a Week Program since 2005.
We have had the privilege of hosting high school students who are highly motivated and interested to observe firsthand how research is conducted. Through the Gene Researcher for a Week program, the students are completely immersed in the workings of a human genetics research laboratory. They are given the opportunity to perform molecular genetic techniques that would otherwise only be available at the university level.
Our experience has been very positive. The students are extremely appreciative for the support and opportunity to work in my lab during their spring break. We have had feedback from several students recounting how they were impressed at learning the intricacies of human genetics, in a real world environment. The students are given many unique mentoring opportunities by various members of my laboratory staff including: senior research associates, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, technicians and undergraduate students.
I feel it is a vital program that fosters interest in the field of genetics in young people. It shows them what a career in genetics has to offer, by those actually doing genetic research. Many have chosen to go on in sciences and research at the undergraduate and graduate university levels. We commend the Canadian Gene Cure Foundation in tirelessly fulfilling its objective of stimulating scientific careers.”
Robert A. Hegele MD, FRCPC, FACP, FAHA, FCAHS
University of Western Ontario
The following are excerpts taken from essays submitted by some of our Gene Researchers for a Week following their placement:
“As a high school senior, my knowledge of professional science extends only as far as a textbook can lead. I have worked on independent research, attended science challenges, hypothesized and experimented, but my efforts can only reach a certain degree of real-life science before they fall short. Lacking access to equipment and materials, a high school learning experience tends to be deficient in professional techniques and methodologies essential to modern experimentation. The Canadian Gene Cure Foundation’s Gene Researcher for a Week program is precisely the type of opportunity necessary to mend this gap, allowing students to reach true comprehensive understandings.
My own GRFAW experience began at the Taubert Labs in UBC’s Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics. From the very second I entered the laboratory I was exposed to the upbeat, collaborative and innovative happenings of which the institution was composed. Starting with a briefing on molecular cloning, I knew my week would be an extraordinary experience.
The Gene Researcher for a Week program was an opportunity which not only enriched my intellect with new found knowledge, but guided me to a better understanding of occupational scientific research. My time at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics has further encouraged me to encompass the thrill of science in my future.”
Laurel Stothers – 2010 Gene Researcher for a Week
“I was definitely nervous but my anxiety was put to ease after meeting the team at the Kobor Lab. The PhD students were so welcoming and patient that they immediately made me feel comfortable in the lab environment. In addition to having loads of fun at the lab, I learned a lot about genetics during my week as a gene researcher.
The first few days were overwhelming, but soon my partner and I learned all the important procedures and rules of the lab. The focus of the lab was epigenetics, and we soon learned what outside factors triggered the expression, or non-expression, of certain genes.
Another important highlight for me was the whole lab experience. Everyone who I worked with was so nice and patient. Every single PhD student wanted to show us what they were doing, and they even let us high schools students help them. Learning how to use all the machines and tools in the lab was an invaluable experience. In the future, if I go into research, I will already have knowledge of the important procedures and processes. The grad students made us feel like we were a part of their lab. It really felt like a family at CMMT, and I was so glad to be a part of it. I will remember all the teaching, good times, and laughs they shared with us.
I am so lucky to have had this opportunity to be a gene researcher for a week. I caught on quickly, and I realized that I do have potential in the research field. If anything, the program reinforced my love for science, and I will most definitely pursue the subject in my future endeavors. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am so happy I was able to learn, fail, and succeed in the lab. I will never forget the environment, the learning, my mentors, and the whole experience; my week as a Gene Researcher for a Week was a blast!”
Matt Ross – 2011 Gene Researcher for a Week
“For many people, Spring Break is a time of travel, of going to the beach and of idle relaxation. This year, I decided to take the road less travelled and spent five days in a wet lab located in the BC Genome Sciences Centre. Under the watchful eye of my host scientist, Dr. Richard Moore, and several of his fellow gene researchers (or genomics technologists as they are officially known as), I was able to conduct various experiments that I have never even heard of before! When I first arrived at the door, I did not know what to expect and I definitely did not know what they were talking about, but as the days passed and as they patiently explained to me the reasons behind their actions, I soon came to understand the significance of their work and the basics of what they do.
Working with the materials also made me aware of how they are stored and how expensive the reagents are. Because research is an expensive undertaking, it inspired me even more to continue to support life-saving medical research programs. In order for them to reach their noble objectives, I learned that generous funding is vital to all health charities, especially those involving pioneer projects that result in amazing breakthrough findings. My 5-day week in the lab gave me a renewed appreciation for these exceptional “institutions of learning”, where new things are discovered almost every day. I admire the scientists for their teamwork, their vast knowledge and above all, their dedication. I truly feel fortunate to be one of the 24 students who were chosen from all over Canada. The experience opened my eyes to the wonders of gene research, a field from which many new treatments and diagnoses will arise in the coming years.””
Paul Lao – 2009 Gene Researcher for a Week