PEL, working in partnership with CaRTT, has created partners in education initiatives with TVDSB, LDCSB, NCCI, IEC, UWO, LHSC and SJHC. These collaborative endeavours are designed to identify, orient, place and mentor senior academic secondary school students in experiential learning environments of the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) health research communities. London is an excellent centre for this type of initiative because it has an abundance of rich research environments that focus on nurturing discoverers and innovators. PEL aims to support the creation and translation of knowledge in the STEMM disciplines by encouraging researchers to mentor senior secondary school youth who are motivated to pursue academic pathways in university learning environments. As students achieve success on these pathways, they are able to make informed decisions about professional careers that allow them to continue discovering, developing and applying knowledge and technology for the benefit of all Canadians.
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A large number of secondary school students in Canada have the motivation, energy, focus, and ability to become the next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). Beyond secondary school they often enter into, and many complete, undergraduate degrees in STEMM disciplines, but a frustratingly large number of talented, high ability trainees do not continue with postgraduate STEMM training and successful STEMM careers. This is unfortunate on two fronts: a) Canadian youth are not reaching their potential, and b) the Canadian STEMM research community is deprived of talent that could boost achievement in discovery, and translation of discovery to STEMM applications that enhance job creation, economic development, and intellectual accomplishment for themselves and for the large circle of Canadians with whom they interact.
We believe that an underlying cause of this situation is a scarcity of effective programs to develop STEMM skills and encourage interest in STEMM careers in our best young students at an early enough stage in their training.
There is a shortage in highly-qualified personnel in STEMM careers in Canada. In 2002, NSERC stated that approximately 100,000 additional highly qualified people will be required to place Canada, by 2010, among the top 5 countries in the world with respect to R&D spending (the stated goal of Canada's Innovation Strategy). This did not include the estimated 20,000 professors (PhDs) to replace retiring faculty, thousands of MSc and PhD holders to replace retiring government scientists and engineers, and an unknown number of replacements for private sector STEMM personnel. NSERC estimated that doubling current natural science and engineering graduation rates by 2010 would be required to meet these needs. As of 2009, the number of post-secondary degrees awarded annually in science and technology Canada rose only marginally. Alarmingly, we rank 21st among OECD countries in the fraction of such degrees among the total awarded each year. We have fallen behind and the deficit is growing.
To reduce this deficit will be a formidable task but little attention is paid to exposing selected young students with high promise of future accomplishment to the excitement of STEMM careers, nor are they being introduced to successful researchers working in the thick of STEMM disciplines at a critical time in their lives when they are deciding their future career direction – in senior level secondary school. PEL addresses this task.
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PEL is a “partners in education” curriculum-based project that has a successful history of creating experiential learning activities that enhance and enrich the senior academic science, technology and mathematics disciplines of Ontario’s curriculum. PEL created a foundation for the partnership in the academic science cooperative education programs of the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) and the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) and then partnered with researchers of Canadian Institutes of Health Research Strategic Training Program in Cancer Research and Technology Transfer (CIHR STP CaRTT). In the years that the program has been in place, it has evolved to offer much more than cooperative education placements in cancer research laboratories of the CaRTT mentors. Today PEL provides: an invitation to PEL co-op students to attend the Translational Seminar Series which is offered by the CIHR STP CaRTT in conjunction with the Pamela Greenaway Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit; a promotional seminar for teachers and students interested in the PEL program; participation in The Annual CaRTT and Department of Oncology Research and Education Day; participation in the annual Secondary School Gairdner Event hosted by the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University; matching funds for PEL co-op alumni who have successfully competed for summer employment in the CaRTT laboratory where they earned their co-op credits; classroom connections for researchers who offer to enrich the secondary school curriculum in collaboration with a teacher; input into the Provincial Partnership Council which is responsible for ensuring that every employer in Ontario sees the value of engaging high school students in meaningful work experiences supported by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; and most importantly, cooperative education placements for selected, senior science students from TVDSB and LDCSB who are motivated to work and learn in the experiential learning environments of the PEL mentors who work in London’s health research community.
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• All TVDSB and LDCSB co-op teachers were notified of the new application to placement instructions on the website. Co-op students who were interested in engaging researchers in the health research community were invited to submit an application to the PEL program. The registration and application process was conducted in May and completed as required at the end of the month. Applicants were directed by their teachers to follow the registration instructions on the website and the school interviews were scheduled when teachers submitted prescribed applicant information. 17 schools expressed interest in the program and 10 completed the registration process. 48 students completed the application process which resulted in 33 students being interviewed, matched, oriented and placed with PEL mentors. Preplacement activities included our 11th Annual Oncology Research and Education Day and Orientation Seminars in September and December.
• Several 2013-2014 PEL co-op students were successful in receiving summer studentships from their mentors.
• Working in partnership with the Robarts Research Institute and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, PEL presented the 8th Annual Secondary School Gairdner Event on Monday, October 27, 2014 from 8:30am-3:00pm. The day was opened with an introductory talk by Dr. Shawn Whitehead. The academic lecture was given by Sir Ravinder Maini, a 2014 Gairdner Awardee and visiting Professor at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, University of Oxford, Oxford UK. Sir Maini was awarded for the discovery of anti-TNF therapy for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases -See more at: http://www.gairdner.org/content/congratulations-2014-canada-gairdner-award-winners#sthash.KQWmc1wV.dpuf. After the lecture, Sir Maini joined us for lunch and followed up with a question and answer period with our students, teachers and guests. After our time with the 2014 Gairdner recipient, we were introduced to some of the research and labs of the Biomedical Imaging Research Centre (BIRC) at the Lawson Imaging facilities at St. Joseph’s Health Care.
• The PEL director submitted a letter of support for the Lawson Imaging grant application to the Ontario Research Fund (ORF) Research Excellence Program, Heart Failure: Prevention Through Early Detection Using New Imaging Methods. Responding to this request was an honour and an indicator of the successes achieved by PEL co-op students. In addition, the PEL Director, at the invitation of Dr. Frank Prato, introduced PEL to the Lawson Imaging PIs.
• The council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario was presented with a profile of the PEL program that highlighted its growth and successes. The presentation was designed to encourage the replication of PEL in the regions serviced by the other academic hospitals in Ontario.
• Dr. Koropatnick and Rodger Dusky met with Deb Matthews, MMP London North Central and Deputy Premier, President of the Treasury Board and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy to describe the successes and challenges facing the PEL program.
• Rodger Dusky continues to serve as a member of the Provincial Partnership Council and the Strategic Partnerships Task Force to support the mission of the Council relating to experiential learning in Ontario. Membership on this council provides PEL with accurate and current information from the Ministry of Education on experiential learning curriculum initiatives in Ontario. On August 13, the annual meeting of the council was presented with a profile of PEL.
• The PEL director presented a summative report to the 12th Annual CaRTT Retreat.
More information, contact:
Rodger Dusky, Director PEL
Christine Koustrup , Coordinator CIHR STP CaRTT
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