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Pathways to Graduate Studies inspires Indigenous student research


(Image source: The University of Winnipeg)

For the second summer in a row, Indigenous students studying science at the University of Winnipeg were able to gain research experience and build a network with other Indigenous students, thanks to the Pathways to Graduate Studies (P2GS) program funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Over four weeks (June 1–26, 2020), students participated in Zoom-based science classes in the morning and paid research in the afternoon, under the supervision of UWinnipeg faculty members. In the first week of the program, the students were invited to an open teaching event led by Elder Sharon Pelletier, which gave students a chance to participate in a smudging through Zoom.

This year’s participating researchers were Dr. Craig Willis, from the Department of Biology; Dr. Athar Ata and Dr. Tabitha Wood, from the Department of Chemistry; Dr. Yannick Molgat-Seon, from the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Health; Dr. Shakhawat Hossain, from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics; and Dr. Blair Jamieson, Dr. Dwight Vincent and Dr. Jeff Martin from the Department of Physics.

While working remotely, faculty found innovative ways to adapt and provide P2GS scholars with engaging opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research.

For example, Dr. Ata used Zoom to show students how to perform experiments remotely, Dr. Molgat-Seon provided students with pre-existing data to answer a novel research question, Dr. Jamieson moved his research to studies of existing data and simulations of future detectors, and Dr. Wood shifted to theoretical learning opportunities.

“As an experimental chemist, my research typically takes place in an on-campus chemistry laboratory, which was not possible given the COVID-19 pandemic response restrictions,” said Dr. Wood. “I created an opportunity for meaningful research in a virtual setting by focusing on the computational, theoretical aspects of my research.”

Dr. Martin was originally planning to work with Ojibwe student Gabrielle Glowatsky to develop and characterize new magnetic sensors, but adapted the project to provide her an opportunity to gain confidence applying engineering calculations to magnetic field generating coils instead.

Despite the challenges of studying off campus, the program continues to grow. It has more than tripled, from three students in 2019, to ten students in 2020.

This year’s P2GS scholars were Sara Baxter, Connor Boubard, Thomas Fleury, Gabrielle Glowatsky, Ashley King, Cassidy Lamerande, Silas Legget, Keith Mason and Benjamin Tuesday.

Leggett is a 17-year old Métis student, and a recent graduate from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate. He is looking forward to beginning a science degree in fall 2020 and spent the month of June working with Dr. Hossain to understand COVID-19 through statistical data analysis and modeling.

Using publicly available COVID-19 data, Dr. Hossain supervised Leggett as he examined trends related to new cases and the predicted number of future death counts in Canada based on the most up-to-date COVID-19 data available.

He was inspired to apply for the program after seeing his sister Sidney Leggett’s success last year. Sidney discovered her passion, and aptitude, for research in the 2019 P2GS program. The experience led to her acceptance in an astrophysics summer internship at Queen’s University.

“It was a huge boost to my resume getting to take part in P2GS, especially because it was my first research experience, and my first chance to work with a physicist,” said Sidney. “I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it, but it ended up working out extremely well.”

Dr. Melanie Martin worked with the Research and Innovation Office to get the program started in 2019. Dr. Martin is thankful for the Faculty of Graduate Studies for their invaluable support, and Dr. Nora Casson who has stepped in to work alongside her as co-organizer.

This article was republished with permission from the This link will take you to another Web site University of Winnipeg.