Health Science Research Internships (HSRIs) allows outstanding undergraduate health science students to work in the lab of a leading researcher on real scientific health issues.
Beginning with their first classes on campus, our health sciences students learn about the biological and psychosocial factors contributing to disease. We take a life-course approach to education, studying such topics as women’s reproductive health and children’s malnutrition, through to the diseases of aging. HSRIs allow students to take the lessons of the classroom to the laboratory where they practice disease awareness, prevention, care and pure research. Working alongside faculty and other research staff, students engage in controlled experiments, analyze data, discuss results and may contribute to the publication of the results.
Undergraduate research experience like this cannot be taught in a lecture theatre and for many students, it’s their first hands-on experience with real-world research. For example, some of our students assist with projects in collaboration with researchers and clinicians at the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. One research topic they may choose to research, is why low-grade inflammation over time (a central feature of many infectious diseases (chronic viral infections) and non-infectious conditions (obesity and aging)) results in organ damage and dysregulation of metabolic processes, which contributes to the development of age-associated diseases including cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, and diabetes.
The program was first launched in 2015 and relies on the philanthropic support of community members. Students are enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Sciences program, which was launched in 2013 and therefore does not yet have established support. With up to 100 incoming students each year, HSRIs will play a key role in attracting, retaining and offering a student experience that sets them apart.
The HSRIs provide a stipend to these students, which helps them focus on their projects without worrying about balancing summer employment with their laboratory work. Each Health Science Research Internship costs $5,000 which is paid out directly to the student. The internships run for 12-16 weeks.
This campaign’s goal of $20,000 will support four internships in the coming year.
For many, the chance to connect with actual health research scientists and receive face-to-face feedback is the highlight of their education and solidifies their intention to pursue careers in this field. The program deliverables include the skills gained by the student (critical thinking, communication, teamwork, research), the knowledge gained that can be shared with others outside of the university (providing the opportunity to educate others on disease risk factors and preventative options) and contribution of data that advances research via the outcomes of their experiments. Success will be determined not only by contribution toward publication in scientific literature, but also by the ability of students to mobilize the knowledge they have gained by sharing disease risk factors and preventative opportunities, such as influencing lifestyle changes.