Guelph High School Internship Program 2019

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Program Description

Our program, coordinated by the STEM Fellowship Guelph Branch, offers high school students in the surrounding community the opportunity to participate in research at University of Guelph laboratories. This program takes place on campus for five days, from March 11-15, 2019, and will allow students to experience the world of research and scientific inquiry in a field of their choice. Participants will engage in activities including tours of first-class research facilities, introductions to basic techniques and experiments using state-of-the-art equipment, and shadowing of lab personnel. Students will be mentored by graduate students and will be involved in the hands-on experiments that their mentors are working on.

Applications are now CLOSED. Decisions will be made beginning mid-February.

Project Descriptions

Dr. Daniel Gillis – Computer Science – Software Design, Data Analysis & Natural Resource Management

Dr. Gillis is an Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph (UG). His multidisciplinary research programs focus on public health assessment, natural resource management, software design, community-engaged learning, pedagogy, and bridging the digital divide. There are two projects the student will be apart of:

Project 1: For the last few years, we have been working with the remote Inuit community of Rigolet. Due to the environmental impacts of climate change, the community is leading the development of a health and environment monitoring app called eNuk. The tool will be used to collect information that is relevant to the community, and will allow them to make better decisions when they go fishing, hunting, and harvesting – activities that are rich in tradition and culture, but also necessary for sustenance in a community that is accessible only by snowmobile, plane, or ferry. Interns working on this project could help to develop and test web and mobile apps, explore new ways of sharing data through the application, develop an online set of FAQs about the system, test and evaluate connectivity data, and develop communication materials for the dissemination of scientific information within the community. 

Project 2: The research team is investigating new ways to understand how human activities affect species so that they can be sustainably managed. Most recently, we have modified a tool known as an Agent Based Model to estimate the impacts of human activities (such as fishing, and loss of habitat) on fish and birds. The model allows us to determine how a population of animals might behave (e.g. grow in numbers) without human activities present, and then add one activity at a time to see how each changes the population. Interns working on this project could assist in exploring the impacts of human activities on Caribou (or some other animal species) which have seen their numbers decline significantly in the last 10 years. Interns will help to identify different management strategies, and evaluate their impact. The interns could also help to develop materials to communicate the findings of our models to the general public. This could include development of a social media strategy to share information with the general public.

Dr. Ian Tetlow – Plant Metabolism

An underlying aim throughout my research career has been to understand how plant metabolism is regulated; and in particular, how carbohydrate metabolism in plastids is regulated. One of the unique aspects of plant cell biology is the compartmentalization of certain metabolic pathways within specialized sub-cellular organelles termed plastids. The origin of plastids is thought to be traced back over 600 million years ago to the ingestion of a photosynthetic cyanobacterial cell by an ancient protist, and its eventual transformation into a plastid. Many of the world’s most important agricultural products (e.g. starches and oils) are made inside plastids, and the central theme of my research interests has been the study of these organelles.

Dr. Jennifer Geddes-McAlister –  Microbiology and Immunology

In the Geddes-McAlister lab, we apply microbiology and biochemistry techniques to investigate how microbes sense and respond to their environments. We also study how microbes interact with the host and how the host defends itself from an invading pathogen. For example, we work with the fungal pathogen, Cryptococcus neoformans, and use mass spectrometry-based proteomics to identify and quantify changes in protein abundance when the fungus is cultured in the presence or absence of immune cells.

Dr. Jim Uniacke – Cancer Genetics

Our research investigates how cancer cells in tumours adapt to low oxygen conditions, called hypoxia. Hypoxic cancer cells are resistant to cancer therapy and spread throughout the body so there is a lot of interest to study how this happens. Our lab has expertise in genetics and we aim to understand how hypoxic cells turn on certain genes to become dangerous. Understanding this phenomenon will allow us to prevent cells from turning on the necessary genes to survive in hypoxia by using drugs.

Dr. Rebecca Shapiro – Immunology and Genetics

In the Shapiro lab we study micro-organisms that can cause infections, such as microbial fungal pathogens. We use genetic tools to study how the genes of the microbes allow them to cause infections in humans. We use cutting-edge techniques like CRISPR genome editing to alter the genetics of these pathogens and understand genetic function.

Dr. Wei Zhang – Protein Signalling and Biochemistry

My research team ( creates synthetic molecules modulating protein-protein interactions to accelerate understanding of biology and to facilitate development of novel therapeutics. Currently, we are interested in the following research projects: 1) Development of synthetic peptides and proteins to understand biochemical mechanisms of ubiquitin signaling; 2) Engineering post-translational modifications to probe and rewire DNA damage signalling; and 3) Manipulating CRISPR-based gene editing through protein engineering.

Dr.  John Vessey – Neurobiology and Cellular Biology

I study the development of the cerebral cortex, the largest part of the brain. I’m interested in the genetic elements that control the neural stem cells that build the cortex and what happens when they don’t function properly. Fundamentally, I’m interested in how a neural stem cell divides asymmetrically. What that means is, how does one stem cell divide into two cells that have different identities? In the development of the cortex, this usually means that one of the two cells stays a stem cell and the other becomes a neuron. How does that happen?

Dr. David Ma – Human Health and Nutrition

The focus of my research is to better understand how dietary fats influence health and disease throughout life with an emphasis on the prevention of chronic disease. Currently, a major area of study in my laboratory is the role of omega-3 fatty acids in breast cancer prevention. We have shown that lifelong exposure to omega-3 fatty acids reduces mammary tumour development, which is mediated through changes in mammary gland development. These findings provide evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are important components of the diet and play an important role in disease prevention. I am also interested in the role of other bioactive fatty acids including omega-6 fatty acids, trans, conjugated linoleic acids, saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids in human health. Other areas of research include brain health and Alzheimer’s disease, bone development, fatty liver disease and nutrigenomics.

2018 Internships Testimonials

The High School Internship Program will be held for the first time for the Guelph Branch in 2019. However, this program has been successfully held at other Universities across Canada. Click this link to read testimonials from students who participated in the Calgary High School Internship Program in 2018! 

Opportunity to Publish in the STEM Fellowship Journal

In addition to the opportunity to conduct novel research through the internship program, we have started a new initiative to compliment this research program by allowing our interns to publish their own scientific manuscripts to the STEM Fellowship Journal (SFJ). The SFJ is an open access peer-reviewed journal supported by Canadian Science Publishing and the National Research Council. More specifically, our interns will be given the opportunity to write a literature review on the topic they researched on throughout the course of the program. Interns will be offered guidance throughout the whole process, both by the branch executives during the initial manuscript writing stage, and the SFJ editors upon submission of their literature reviews.

Literature Review Competition

Although all interested interns will have the opportunity to publish their work, the author of the top literature review will be awarded with a free publication (sponsored by the SFJ).

Application Requirements

  • Applicants must meet the following criteria in order for consideration: Must be enrolled in a Canadian high school in grade 10, 11, or 12
  • Must demonstrate an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) research
  • Must complete application form and submit all required documentation prior to the deadline
  • Must be at least 15 years of age as of March 1st, 2019

Academic Requirements

  • All applicants must have completed Academic grade 10 Science (SNC2D) with a minimum grade of 80.0%
  • Grade 11 and 12 Academic science courses (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, etc.) are an asset, but are not required

Reserved Seats

The STEM Fellowship 2019 Internship Program at the University of Guelph will reserve approximately 50% of the program seats for high school students that self-identify as being from communities that have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

Students who identify themselves to be apart of the following backgrounds qualify under the underrepresented student category:

    • Indigenous or of Indigenous ancestry
    • Socioeconomically disadvantaged
    • Rural students
  • Female

Students accepted into the program will be responsible for:

    • Travel arrangements to and from the lab
    • Completing safety courses (if necessary) prior to beginning the internship and following lab safety protocols during the week*
    • Completing a STEM Fellowship Waiver prior to beginning the internship program
  • Completing a feedback survey following the internship

*Selected interns will be contacted by their respective labs prior to the beginning of their internships regarding necessary safety courses


The application consists of submission of the online application form (consisting of 3 short answer question) and submission of your current high school transcript. 


December Application launches early in December, 2018 
December/January Opportunity for applicants to contact University of Guelph STEM Fellowship team with questions on writing a strong application 
January Application closes January 25, 2019
February Successful interns notified starting February 12, 2019
March Internships take place over March 11-15, 2019

End of Week Reception will be held on March 15


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