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 6 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. In addition, PEL is collaborating with First Nations educators to offer a one week in July summer residential experiential learning opportunity for First Nations youth who are participants of the Mini University of Western's Indigenous Services.
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2004 January to 2009 June
• 66 senior science co-op students from 105 applicants were placed; 14/38 secondary schools, 1 private school and 1 adult education centre participated.
• 80 health researchers have been active in the first five years of the program.
• 28 co-op teachers, many science teachers and 5 learning coordinators have contributed to the program.
• Each summer PEL co-op students have been employed in summer internship programs in health research.
• PEL is represented on the CIHR STP CaRTT Program Advisory Committee by its director.
• PEL has contributed to teacher and student orientation seminars, tours of the cancer research laboratories for teachers, teacher professional activity days, classroom connections and an international conference.
• PEL contributed to the grant renewal of the CIHR STP CaRTT (2009 – 2015) based on a 5 year educational partnership with the original program.
• PEL collaborates with the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University to deliver the Secondary School Gairdner Event in October of each year.
• PEL students take part in the annual Research and Education Day of the CIHR STP CaRTT and the Department of Oncology and the monthly seminars sponsored by the CIHR STP CaRTT in conjunction with the Pamela Greenaway Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit.
• PEL has received CIHR Synapse Grants for the creation of educational partnerships with the STPs in Vascular Research and Primary Health Care and Virtual Researcher On Call (2007) and the Lawson Health Research Institute (2008).
• Dr. James Koropatnick, Director, CIHR STP CaRTT and Rodger Dusky, Director, PEL became members of the Ontario Provincial Partnership Council (2008).
• CaRTT and PEL offer six $1500.00 2010 summer studentships to PEL co-op students who are sponsored by their CaRTT mentors with matching funds to compete in a competitive application process for a summer research position in the mentor’s lab.
•In the spring of 2009, PEL began discussions with TVDSB regarding support for the delivery of the experiential learning component of a new Specialist High Skills Major initiative in Health and Wellness.
• PEL contributed to the CIHR renewal of CaRTT from 2009-2015.
2009 September to 2011 June
• In September 2009, PEL initiated a design and development process to partner with the Western's Indigenous Services Mini University and offer a First Nations Summer Residential Program in cancer research for 4 First Nations secondary school students.
• First Nations students from H.B. Beal Secondary School, Saunders Secondary School and Strathroy District Collegiate Institute were placed in the cancer research laboratories for a pilot experiential learning opportunity with cancer researchers during the first week of 2010 July. The experiences shared by the students and researchers provided valuable information to support a proposal for a First Nations, Métis and Inuit Summer Mentoring Program (FNMI SMP).
• A partners in education initiative supported by PEL, CaRTT, TVDSB and the Indigenous Education Coalition (IEC) was launched and it is hoped that the curriculum connections, co-curriular components and funding will be in place for implementation of the program in 2012 July.
• PEL placed 36 co-op students from 10 secondary schools in the 2009-2010 school year.
• 2010 was the 4th year that PEL was invited to coordinate the secondary school outreach event of the Annual Gairdner Awards celebration in London http://www.gairdner.org/. The Robarts Research Institute in partnership with the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and PEL presented the Robarts Research & Education Day on Monday, October 25, 2010 from 9:00am -1:30pm. The opening lecture by Dr. Quim Madrenashttp://www.robarts.ca/madrenas/profile.html was followed by a public lecture by Dr. Peter J. Ratcliffe, a 2010 Gairdner Awardee http://www.robarts.ca/gairdner-lecture and lunch and a question and answer period for secondary school students, teachers and guests with the Gairdner recipient. Dr. Ratcliffe came to London ON from the University of Oxford, Oxford, England in conjunction with the Gairdner Awards dinner in Toronto.
• PEL placed 33 co-op students from 9 secondary schools in the 2010-2011school year.
• 2011 was the first year that the PEL Information Seminar was hosted outside of the Cancer Research Laboratory Program. On March 3, the dean of Western Engineering hosted the seminar in the Spencer Engineering Building. Dean Hrymak, Drs. Wan and Koropatnick provided valuable information to our students, parents and teachers. Western undergraduate engineering and graduate biomedical engineering and academic pathways to careers in research were described in a way that would facilitate informed decision making about secondary school experiential learning opportunities and steps along future academic pathways.
• During the 2011-2012 secondary school registration period, the PEL Information Seminar and the promotional activities in the schools produced a significant increase in PEL applicants which necessitated the creation of a set expectations to ensure that applicants were committed to the program. Online registration for PEL, teacher approved applications, an interview by PEL administration and attendance at the Oncology Research and Education Day, PEL Orientation Seminar and Annual Secondary School Gairdner Event were mandatory requirements for participation. PEL applicants responded positively and met expectations which resulted in 56 students from 17 secondary schools being placed in health research environments.
• Significant growth in registration initiated a discussion which addressed growth and succession planning.
• The Robarts Research Institute in partnership with the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and PEL presented the Secondary School Gairdner Event on Monday, October 24, 2011 from 8:45am -2:00pm. Drs. Ravi Menon and Lynne-Marie Postovit opened the event followed by a public lecture by Dr. Adrian Bird, a 2011 Gairdner Awardee http://www.gairdner.org/awardrecipients/2011recipients/adrianpeterbirdphd. After lunch there was a question and answer period for secondary school students, teachers and guests with the Gairdner recipient. Dr. Bird came to London ON from the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh,Scotland in conjunction with the Gairdner Awards dinner in Toronto.
• In 2011 December, PEL submitted a FedDevON STEM Application for funds to support its goal to give the most promising STEMM students early, long-term, personal connections to expert mentors, sustaining them to leadership roles in STEMM careers. Unfortunately, the federal funding was withdrawn before our proposal was evaluated.
• On February 29, PEL hosted an information seminar for teachers, parents and students at the LHSC-Victoria Hospital, North Tower, Sumner Auditorium. Lawson mentors Drs. Koropatnick, Allan and Carson introduced health research at the Lawson Health Research Institute and Meryl Hodge a past PEL co-op student described the value of an academic co-op experience to a first year university student in the sciences. This seminar was followed by a mandatory session on April 11 for co-op teachers who planned to partner with PEL for 2012-2013.
• Planning for the 2012-2013 registration process proved successful in sustaining the previous year’s record registration and resulted in 56 students from 15 secondary schools being placed in health research environments. Our partners continued to meet PEL expectations and as a result the 2012-2013 pre-placement process activities including the Oncology Research and Education Day and the Orientation Seminars in September and December were a success.
• The Robarts Research Institute in partnership with the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and PEL presented the 6th Secondary School Gairdner Event on Monday, October 22, 2012 from 8:30am-2:00pm.The event was opened with a lecture by Drs. Dale Laird and Jim Koropatnick. The academic lecture was given by Dr. Michael Rosbash, a 2012 Gairdner Awardee http://www.gairdner.org/content/michael-rosbash-and-jeffrey-c-hall-2012-canada-gairdner-international-award and was followed by lunch and a question and answer period with the Gairdner recipient for secondary school students, teachers and guests. Dr. Rosbash came to London ON from Brandeis University, Waltham MA USA in conjunction with the Gairdner Awards dinner in Toronto.
• In 2012 October, PEL contributed a support letter to CaRTT’s proposal to the Western Interdisciplinary Development Initiatives (IDI) based on the CaRTT training program and its support for PEL. The IDI Program provides seed funding for projects that further Western’s research and teaching mission, attract scholars and graduate students to our University, and bring prestige to Western.
• In January 2013, Lawson nominated PEL for a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Synapse Award 2013.
• PEL in partnership with Lawson and Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School (MTCSS) presented the 1st Secondary School Café Scientifique on Tuesday, February 26 from 11:30-12:45pm at MTCSS.
More information, contact:
Rodger Dusky, Director PEL
Christine Koustrup , Coordinator CIHR STP CaRTT
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