High school scientists shine at regional biotechnology competition

Monday, May 4, 2015

Students and Regional Coordinator Doug GajicThe Faculty of Science hosted the 22nd Sanofi Biogenius Challenge Canada Southwestern Ontario Regional Competition last week. Twelve of the brightest high school students from the region came to campus to compete in Canada’s only national biotechnology competition.

The annual Sanofi Biogenius Challenge Canada is a national, biotechnology research science competition for Canadian high school and CEGEP students. They’re challenged to take on university-level research projects under the mentorship from local scientists and researchers, who help with research design, resources and data analysis.

The richness of the projects, caliber and foresight of the students that come up with these brilliant ideas is inspirational,” says Doug Gajic, Sanofi BiogeniusSouthwestern Ontario Regional Coordinator.

The students gave two ten-minute oral presentations and a poster presentation about their projects to the Waterloo community and a panel of judges. The topics all in the field of biotechnology ranged from drug delivery to plant drought tolerance to solar cell dyes. The judges graded the students on originality, scientific merit, project execution and communication of their work.

The quality of research presented today is right up there with graduate work,” says Bernie Duncker, Associate Dean of Research, Science. “It’s amazing.”

The rest of the day included a talk by Science Teaching Fellow and biologist Jonathan Witt titled “Intelligent Design Theory: Is It Science?”, a tour of the Waterloo iGEM lab and visit to the Molecular Biology core facility’s newest analytical instrument the BD FACSAria™ Fusion fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS).

The top five winners for the Southwestern Ontario Regional competition (in order, starting with first) were: Miss. Catharine Bowman, Miss. Mella Younkyung, Mr. Adree Khondker, Mr. Jason Kerkvliet and Miss. Seonho Jang. The Best Poster Award went to Miss. Mella Younkyung and Mr. Zhenle Cao won the Commercialization Award.

1st place winner Catharine BowmanCatharine, from St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School, along with the winners from each of the eight regional competitions will present their work at the national competition, held at the headquarters of the National Research Council in Ottawa later this month.

The Faculty of Science gave the winner a $1,000 conditional scholarship on acceptance to a University of Waterloo Science program.

We’re honoured to host this event,” says Canada Research Chair Brian Dixon and event coordinator. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase amazing students, foster strong high school-university relationships and promote science.”

Coordinated by Partners In Research, the regional event was sponsored by the Faculty of Science, Department of Biology and the Department of ChemistryWaterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, Waterloo Wellington District School Board and the Upper Grand District School Board. 

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