For three science-obsessed high school students March Break wasn’t a time to kick back and relax. Instead the students, Cameron, Chris and Zev, spent the week at OICR gaining knowledge and hands on experience in genomics and bioinformatics as part of the Gene Researcher for a Week program.
Cameron and Zev spent much of their week in the lab with Dr. Philip Zuzarte, Scientific Associate in the Genome Technologies Program. There they learned how to manipulate DNA and prepare samples for genomic sequencing. “We sequenced the genome of a type of frog that had never been analyzed before,” explains Cameron. “It was awesome to work with all of the machines and learn how they all worked.”
Chris spent most of his time working with the bioinformatics team and learning how they analyze data. He was able to learn about the different roles within the team and how they all fit together. “When I came for the week I was most interested in learning about how different teams and types of scientists work together,” he says. “I came away with a good understanding of how interdisciplinary research works and what it is like to work in a research setting. Seeing how the wet and computational labs work together was really neat.”
The students were chosen through a competitive application process and had to write an essay explaining why they should get a spot in the popular program, which places students in labs across the country.
In addition to gaining hands-on experience in cancer research the students also came away with knowledge of different careers and the paths to get to them. “It was great to talk to the real pros and learn what it is actually like to work in research. You can only gain so much knowledge of that at school,” says Zev. Cameron said the week helped him narrow down what he wants to do. “This experience was really good for me because I learned that I prefer working in the wet lab over the dry lab. This should help me focus my post-secondary studies.”
OICR is dedicated to fostering the next generation of cancer research in Ontario through the Gene Researcher for a Week program and other initiatives, including training, internships and lab tours.