Program marks 20 years of connecting Niagara’s top high school students with Brock mentors


Amy Oliver knew she wanted to go to Brock University, but getting a head start on research cemented that decision.

The 17-year-old Ridgeway-Crystal Beach High School student presented research on the health benefits of taking Vitamin E Thursday during the 20th annual Brock Mentorship Program Symposium. Some of the top high school students in Niagara showed off the research they’ve been working on since September under the guidance of Brock faculty and staff members.

“Having the experience before coming to the University has been awesome. I know my way around and there are state-of-the-art labs. I feel really good about coming here now,” said Oliver, who will start at Brock in September. “It solidified my decision.”

This year’s Mentorship Symposium saw 21 local high school students from both DSBN and NCDSB present their projects Thursday.

Since its inception, the program has seen more than 300 students from 20 Niagara high schools participate. Over the years, 80 Brock faculty members and staff have volunteered as mentors to provide the students with the opportunity to experience real-life research.

St. Michael High School classmates Matthan Condez and Holly Galinec, who have both been offered acceptance letters by Brock, worked together to design a system that uses a webcam to detect distracted driving. They were mentored by Tom MacDonald, who works in Brock’s electronics shop.

“We started from scratch and we had to brainstorm our own project,” Condez said. “We had to teach ourselves the coding and then pull what we both knew into one project.”

Galinec said the research project whet her appetite for university research.

“I got a taste for university life and explored what I’m into. I had no prior experience coding, but now that I’ve done it, I quite like it,” she said.

This year’s group of students were all high-achieving Grade 12 students who were accepted based on their applications to the program. The study disciplines covered the entire spectrum of Math & Science (MATH, BIOL, CHEM, NEURO, Robotics, PHYS) and included Health Sciences and Kinesiology, as well.

The program gave the students the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty or staff in the related field. Some were paired up with Master’s students and worked in their labs, others conducted surveys and did statistical analysis on data.

“The students are exceptionally talented this year,” said Brock University Associate Professor Joe Engemann, who has been running the mentorship program since its inception. “High school is excellent, but it doesn’t really teach them how science is conducted in the real world. They come here and they’re amazingly quick studies. They understand the research techniques and they do amazing work.”

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