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Verna Kirkness looks over the shoulders of budding scientists. // UM Today File Photo.

Future Indigenous scientists from across Canada come to campus

May 29, 2017 — 

A record-breaking 46 Indigenous Grade 11 students from Winnipeg, rural and northern Manitoba, and New Brunswick will experience first-hand the joy of scientific research on the University of Manitoba campus as part of the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program.

For the sixth year in a row, students representing First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities will come to campus to be mentored by more than 100 U of M professors, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, and research technicians. The growth of the program is largely due to the influence the past Kirkness scholars have with their younger classmates; last year 40 students took part in the program.

Some highlights from this year’s agenda include:

  • Students from Peguis, Wabowden, Camperville and Fredericton will learn how to make prosthetics in mechanical engineering with Nishant Balakrishnan.
  • Students from Gillam, Winnipeg, The Pas and Fredericton will test water sample from the red river and other sources in the laboratory of Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst.
  • Students from Norway House, Camperville, Wabowden, and Fredericton will test, design and build a robot in electrical engineering under the mentorship of Dr. Witold Kinsner.
  • Students from Fredericton, Thompson, Gillam and Norway House will learn about strength training with Cole Schiller at the High Performance training centre in the Active Living Centre.
  • Students from Winnipeg, Fredericton and Thompson, under the guidance of Dr. Kevin Fraser, will do a nest check on the houses of purple-martin colonies on campus.
  • Students from Fredericton, Winnipeg and Norway House will learn how to make more healthy kinds of bannock in the lab of Dr. Nancy Ames.

An Honorary Degree recipient (2008) as well as a distinguished alumna of the University of Manitoba, Dr. Verna Kirkness graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1980 with a Master’s in Education after she completed her BA and BEd at the U of M as well. She is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation, and a member of the Order of Manitoba and Order of Canada. She is a national leader in education in Canada who has inspired countless students and educators in both Indigenous and non- Indigenous communities.

“It is thrilling to see the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Program return to the U of M for a sixth year,” says Frank Deer, Acting Executive Lead, Indigenous Achievement, at the U of M. “Introducing Indigenous youth to what it is like to do research in a lab and in the field, as well as to allow them get an idea of what it is like to live on campus and familiarize themselves with the supports and services at the U of M is one example of how we can create pathways to Indigenous Achievement.”

As a partner in the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Program, the University of Manitoba is committed to fostering K-12 Indigenous student participation in post-secondary education, as outlined in Creating Pathways to Indigenous Achievement, a strategic priority of the University. By incorporating Indigenous perspectives into learning, discovery and engagement programs, the University hopes to create a more prosperous and fulfilling future for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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