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Earlier this month, NRC joined forces with Aventis Pasteur and several other biotech organizations to host a national biotechnology research competition for high school students: the Aventis Biotech Challenge (ABC). The Challenge pairs students with scientific mentors in labs across Canada to conduct ground-breaking research and learn more about the growing science of biotechnology.
Held on May 12th, the national event saw the best and brightest from regions across Canada face off via videoconference to win top honours. NRC provided the technology for the day, with students using NRC videoconferencing facilities in their regions to present to the panel of judges at NRC's corporate headquarters in Ottawa, including NRC's own Dr. Peter Hackett, Vice President Research (Life Sciences and Information Technology).
Charles Tran of Edmonton, national winner of the Aventis Biotech Challenge 2004.
Western Canada was the big winner of the day, taking home the top three awards. First place was awarded to Charles Tran of Edmonton, for his work identifying a genetic mutation that causes a rare blood-clotting disorder. Second place went to William Turk of Winnipeg, for his investigation into how microscopic life forms break down pollution in old gold mines. And third place was awarded to Kimberly Richards of Saskatoon, for her work examining the effects of 150 years of selective breeding of wheat. A special award for the project with the most commercial potential was given to Sarah Small and Ronan McParland of Newfoundland, who developed an herbal sunscreen made from green tea. Small and McParland have already been approached by a Newfoundland company who is interested in their product. In addition to the recognition the teams receive for their wins, they all take home prize money, and many are awarded summer jobs and scholarships.
Leading up to the national event are several regional competitions. In the Ottawa-area, the regional event is accompanied by a two-day lecture series that takes place in tandem with the Challenge itself. This year's lectures featured prominent researchers speaking on topics ranging from forensics and stem cells to organ transplants.
|Mary-Ellen Harper of the University of Ottawa delivers her lecture "Energy Makes Things Happen – The Basics of Human Bioenergetics".|
Top honours for the Eastern Ontario regional competition were awarded to Jermiah Hadwen and Charbel Azzi of Collège Catholique Samuel Genest, for their project examining the spread of infectious diseases. Inspired by the 2003 SARS outbreak, the team investigated the effectiveness of different masks, antibacterial gels and hand washing practices in preventing the spread of bacteria. Other notable winners were Maya Arbach and Bianca Amaral-Stewart from Hillcrest High School, who won the new Science Interpretation award for their research on organic energy sources. The Science Interpretation award is chosen on the basis of how creatively a team represents their project, the scientific and technological concepts underlying their research, and their conclusions.
|Jermiah Hadwen and Charbel Azzi of Collège Catholiqe Samuel Genest, winners of the Ottawa regional competition.|