Terri-Jane Yuzda

University of Alberta Reaches Out To Girls

WISEST Celebrates
20 Years of Programs for
Young Women

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 Armour).

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 otherwise.

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 wisest@chem.ualberta.ca or by phone at (780) 492-1842.

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