Competition winners spend week with UBC Okanagan research lab

Saskatchewan high school students Dilynn Kehler, left, and Tayler Daniels are visiting UBC Okanagan this week to work in a scientific lab with Professor Louise Nelson.

Two First Nation high school students from Saskatchewan visit Kelowna to learn about food research

Two high school students from Saskatchewan are on an all-expenses paid internship to UBC Okanagan to work in a scientific lab with Louise Nelson, Associate Dean, Research and Strategic Planning at UBC Okanagan.

Tayler Daniels from Duck Lake and Dilynn Kehler from Punnichy were two of 10 First Nation high school students selected in a national competition organized by the Guelph-based Advanced Foods and Materials Network (AFMNet) to participate in a program called "Be a Food Researcher for a Week," which runs from March 14  to 20.

"Everyone in my lab, which includes two grad students and four undergrads, have planned a full week of activities -- lab work, tours of the Winfield packing house, the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre and more," says Nelson. "It should be fun and interesting for both girls. I hope the opportunity will help pique the students' interest in science and at the same time making university life a little less intimidating."

The goal of the program is to provide First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth in Grades 11 and 12 with hands-on experience in food research. Applicants were required to write an essay, fill out an application and provide two letters of reference.

"I'm really interested in the lab work aspect of science," says Kehler, a Grade 12 student who is interested in taking pre-med studies after graduation. "It is my first time to B.C. and first time flying, so I was excited but a little freaked out too, but so far, so good! They are keeping us very busy. We did a lot of exploring yesterday and are in the lab today."

"I like working in the lab--it's fun," adds Daniels, who is in Grade 11. "We went to orchards yesterday, picked apples and pears, and we're meeting some of the university students. It's been great so far."

This is Nelson's second time welcoming secondary school students into her lab, which is largely supported by AFMNet funding, for the "Be a Food Researcher for a Week" program.

Some of the current projects she is working on include using DNA probes to detect fungal pathogens causing post-harvest decay of apples and pears, development of environmentally friendly approaches for control of post-harvest pathogens of fruit, and identification of best organic management practices to overcome poor initial establishment of orchard tree fruit plantings.

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