Student gets a taste of science
Megan Stefner conducting nutrition and immunology research
Saturday, Jul 19, 2014 06:00 am
For most high school students, summer means either sleeping in, going to summer school, or picking up a part-time job at the mall.
Not for Megan Stefner. She will be spending the majority of the next two months isolating cells in a research laboratory at the University of Alberta.
Stefner recently completed Grade 11 at St. Albert Catholic High School.
She is one of 50 students participating in the Heritage Youth Researcher Summer program by the health research organization Alberta Innovates Health Solutions. The program is a six-week intensive science course allowing high school students to work in health-related scientific research.
A career counsellor suggested the program to Stefner.
“I want to do something where I can work with little kids,” she said. “I’m also really interested in medicine so I thought this would be a great opportunity for me.”
Stefner applied for the program in the spring. Her research interests in nutrition and immunology were matched with ongoing projects being conducted at the University of Alberta. The province-wide program also matches students with projects at the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge.
Stefner is working under the guidance of Dr. Catherine Field. Her current project is studying the effects of choline – a nutrient grouped with B-complex vitamins – and its effect on an offspring’s immune system.
In the lab, Stefner is working with laboratory technicians, graduate students and other high school students. She does everything from isolating cells in Petri dishes to interpreting data.
“I love that I’m learning so many new things this summer,” she said.
As part of the program, high school students received a tour of the U of A campus.
“We got to see different parts of campus and how we can enter certain positions from where we are now. It’s a really great opportunity to open our eyes to future jobs we didn’t know about before,” Stefner said.
At the end of the six-week program, the summer high school students will make a poster to share their research findings.
Aside from gaining experience, the youth researchers also earn a stipend of $2,000 over the six weeks.