- Wearing white lab coats, and inquisitive expressions, a group
of teens in Toronto huddled around a scientist as he explained the
delicate process of transforming cocoa beans into chocolate.
Nations, Metis and Inuit students were trading in a week of freedom
for a taste of university life, and taking a small bite out of the
unique field known as food science.
the program called "Be a Food Researcher for a Week,"
developed by Advanced Foods and Materials Network, 10 aboriginal
high-school students have been given the opportunity to work with
scientists in several Canadian universities during their spring
science affects everyone, everyone eats food and many people eat
chocolate. If they can find a way to make chocolate healthier, last
longer on the shelves ... it's beneficial to everyone," said
Jesse Gilbert, 15, of Rivers, Man., who made the trip to Ontario
to work in several labs over the week.
always been thirsty for knowledge and I came here to learn,"
teen applied back in September after submitting an essay and two
academic references. Eight students were selected to participate
in the program, which runs out of labs in several universities,
including Ryerson University, University of Toronto and the University
of Guelph. Two other students were working in labs at the University
of British Columbia.
chance to be at the university, to have this whole scientific experience,
will contribute to a career later on," said Gilbert, "like
his job," he added with a smile, gesturing at one of the scientists
in the room.
goal of the program is to expose high-school students not only to
the field of science, but also to university life. Organizers are
hoping as well that it will pique an interest in the subject among
found that aboriginal high-school students are much more likely
to go into arts, so they're underrepresented in sciences at the
post-secondary level," said Louise Jessup, a spokesperson for
the federally funded network.
said that while students can easily picture being a lawyer or doctor,
it might be hard to imagine working in a field like food science
without knowing exactly what's involved.
science is a unique subject because you can talk about chemistry,
engineering, microbiology and nutrition," said Subratim Ghosh,
a Ryerson University post-doctoral fellow in food science, who has
been leading some of the instruction in the lab.
is to encourage aboriginal people to come to higher education, like
university, and to come more into science," he added.
Alanah Levasseur, 18, of Winnipeg, working in a lab in a university
environment was a rare chance to explore a future career.
wanted to experience university because I'm graduating this year,"
said Levasseur. The teenager said she would like to become a biology
they come to school, it will be nice if they have a first-time experience
of how it is to be in a research lab," said Ghosh.
taught the teenagers about a conching machine, a large device that
grinds the chocolate against a hard surface using rollers.
the week, the students were also learning about DNA isolation, the
science behind mayonnaise and about proper nutrition.
said the students were beginning to realize that a career in food
science can help, through diet, in the battle against such chronic
conditions faced by many Canadians as high blood pressure, heart
disease and diabetes.