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'Inspiring' teens with 'research virus': Expert-mentored bioscience contest proves a powerful vector

edible talent in high schools and CEGEP classrooms nation-wide," says Rick Levick, Executive Director of BEC and head of the national competition since its inception,

"The mentors are the unsung heroes of the SBCC program. They often bring out a passion for science and talent for research in kids who didn't know they had any."

Dr. Gavin Clark, the respected, now-retired U of T microbiology professor, when first asked to mentor students in early competitions, recalls being a little overwhelmed by the idea of adding "free range" high school teens to his low key lab which specialized in food poisoning bacteria.

In the end, though, he found "it's rather refreshing to have them around. We don't usually do high fives in the lab."

Among many other exemplary long-term, all-star SBCC mentors:

  • Dr. Ben Alman has likewise mentored many SBCC competitors over the years, despite his many roles: head of orthopaedics and a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Toronto's chair of orthopaedics and vice-chair of its Department of Surgery, and a practicing MD specializing in child syndromes, spinal deformities, neuromuscular disorders, and tumors.

    So why spend time with high school kids? "If just 10% of them catch fire," he says, "that helps create Canada's next generation of scientists," he says.

  • For 10 years Dr. Stephen Westcott, a professor at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, has mentored local high schoolers through the SBCC and loves to see kids get hooked on science. One student's SBCC research found its way into a peer-reviewed academic journal.

    He calls the SBCC "a fantastic experience" for students and "a great way to grow new Canadian researchers."

  • In the corridors of the University of Calgary, there's a scene familiar outside hockey rinks and dance studios across Canada: P

Contact: Terry Collins
Bioscience Education Canada

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