Grade 9 and 10 students at the District School Board of Niagara Academy learned what it takes to make it in the world of research and science.
Brock University health researcher Evangelia Tsiani filled them in during Lunch with a Researcher at the St. Catharines school on Wednesday.
“I think it’s important to inform them of the possibilities that exist,” said Tsiani, associate professor in the Department of Health Sciences, who joined the students for a pizza lunch and presentation.
“I know that if students set their goals early and prepare themselves, they will have success in university.”
That point is particularly important for the group of DSBN students attending the event, as they all share a common goal of becoming the first college or university graduates in their family. Tsiani shared with the students her own education journey as a first generation graduate.
“She showed me that science and research can be a challenge but I can do it,” said Elain Mhlanga, a Grade 10 student and aspiring scientist.
Jill Russell, Technology Program Leader and Jason Dorinzo, Science Program Leader with the DSBN Academy, won the Lunch with a Researcher for their students through their participation in Research Matters’ online scavenger hunt earlier this year.
Research Matters is a province-wide campaign to inform the public of the importance of university research.
The lunch with Tsiani took place in the iHub, a collaborative space at the Academy for innovations in education that Brock has been involved with since 2014.
“Having a Brock presence right here in our own school is a huge benefit for our students,” explained Russell. “They see that Brock isn’t just that place up there on the hill; it’s right here in our school and they enjoy that connection.”
The students not only learned about the hard work and dedication it takes to become a scientist, but also about the rewards of making a difference through research discoveries.
“Science is interesting because you can do a lot of different things with it and it can help people in the future” said Kayla Lyndon, a Grade 10 Academy student, who is interested in pursuing cancer research.
Along with learning about Tsiani’s research, students came away with one important message: that they can be successful in a field that has an intimidating reputation.
“We talk to the students about things like perseverance and optimism and reliance and I think that’s what Dr. Tsiani brought today,” explained Russell. “The idea that getting a PhD takes a long time and research takes a long time but you can do it!”
“Something that stood out to me was when she [Tsiani] said, ‘You’re smarter than you think you are.’ It’s true,” noted Lyndon. “She proved becoming a scientist is something I can do.”
Tsiani’s research is focused on understanding diseases such as diabetes and cancer at the cellular level. She studies cell signaling mechanisms and examines the effects of plant-derived compounds. Her research goals include finding new compounds/chemicals that can be used to treat and/or prevent diabetes and cancer.
She has recently published papers on the herb rosemary’s potential in treating diabetes, the effectiveness of red wine blocking the growth of cancer cells, and how the diabetes drug Metformin slows the growth of lung cancer cells and makes them more likely to be killed by radiotherapy.