WISEST camps receive ringing financial endorsement

(Edmonton) The fundraisers for a University of Alberta-based science outreach program are subscribing to the old saying, “When it rains, it pours.”

The Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology program, or WISEST, has received three back-to-back grants to continue its programs that introduce young women to science education and careers.

Syncrude has awarded WISEST $50,000 per year for five years to support its long-running summer research camp and development of an outreach program for Aboriginal students.

Syncrude’s support came just one day after the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada stepped forward with $93,900 over three years to help fund WISEST.

In early June, WISEST’s years of mentorship was acknowledged by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research with a cheque for $10,000.
Program chair and U of A medical researcher Denise Hemmings couldn’t be happier.

“It is always a relief when many of our long-time sponsors indicate yet again that they are willing to support WISEST programs,” said Hemmings.

The WISEST program has been running its introductory science programs for young women for close to 30 years. The programs vary from one and two-day events where school girls get hands-on science experience in U of A labs, to a full six-week summer research program where 60 Grade 11 students are paid to work as U of A research assistants.

Hemmings says a portion of the latest donations will go to a new and special initiative.

“The new funding from Syncrude is helping us to develop a new program geared towards both boys and girls in grades six to nine in Aboriginal communities in northern Alberta,” said Hemmings. “We’ll start in the Wood Buffalo Region with some fun hands-on science and engineering and we hope that by presenting this in a way kids can identify with, they’ll be encouraged to stay in school and pursue new interests.”

Hemmings remembers her first experience with WISEST when she was a U of A graduate student helping Grade 6 girls with an experiment. Hemmings says those kids taught her two important things.

“It is just amazing how much these young girls already know, so I learned quickly not to underestimate them and, secondly, just how hungry they are to learn about science,” said Hemmings. “That first foray into WISEST programs set me on the path to where I am today as chair.”

Two other U of A faculties received NSERC awards for their science outreach programs. The Department of Computing Science will get $32,800 over three years for its focus on junior high-school students and the Faculty of Engineering was given $31,300 over three years for its summer camp program.