BY EMILY JARRETT
University of Alberta
Every year high school girls in grades 10, 11 and 12 get
to come to the University of Alberta for a fun-filled day
of science and engineering. In the past they have witnessed
hands-on the wonders of genetics in a lab, built towers that
support weight using toothpicks, straws and shaving cream,
learned how to use the skeletal analysis techniques of forensic
anthropology, and seen some amazing chemistry experiments
(thanks to the U of A Chemistry magic show lady, Dr. Margaret-Ann
In addition to experiencing the amazing world of science and
engineering, these girls also have the opportunity to meet
with women working in these fields, as well as students studying
in them. In small group discussion sessions, the girls learn
more about what it is like to be a woman studying or working
in these fields.
So what is this wonderful event called? A Science, Engineering,
and Technology Experience, or SET. It is run by Women in Scholarship,
Engineering, Science and Technology, or WISEST.
SET was held on March 23 this year. The students that attended
the conference came from all over north-central Alberta. The
volunteers who make the conference possible were professors,
graduate students and undergraduate students running the hands-on
activities, and facilitating small group discussions.
Other WISEST Offerings
Other programs that WISEST offers are the Choices Conference
for Grade 6 girls, which occurs in late February, and the
WISEST Summer Research Program for young women and men in
Grade 11. Choices is also a one-day event, although unlike
SET which is run on a Saturday, the girls at Choices get a
day off of school to come to the university and do some hands
on science activities.
The WISEST Summer Research Program employs young women and
men for six weeks in the summer between grades 11 and 12.
The students work in research labs in the areas that are non-traditional
for their gender. The young women join research teams in the
areas of science and engineering and the young men join research
teams in the areas of nursing, human ecology and food and
nutrition. The students gain practical lab experience, and
often learn whether or not they want to work in either research
or that area of study.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of WISEST, a group that
has affected the lives of many young women, and helped shape
their opinions about science and engineering. You can be sure
that many of the young women who have gone through their programs
would have never considered a career in science or engineering
This group was ahead of its time when it was founded in the
early 1980s by Dr. J. Gordon Kaplan (U of A's first vice-president
of research), but even though the number of women in science
and engineering is higher than it was then, there is still
work to do. You can be sure that where there are young women
to reach with the wonders of science, WISEST will be there.
To learn more about WISEST and its programs you can visit
their website, www.chem.uablerta.ca/~wisest.
You can also contact them by e-mail at email@example.com
or by phone at (780) 492-1842.