The University of Winnipeg



P2GS program promotes STEM research

Pathways to Graduate student Sarah Baxter and co-facilitator Dylan Robinson. Photo supplied.

“I’m grateful I transferred to the University of Winnipeg, because I don’t think I would have got this opportunity anywhere else.”

Third-year biochemistry student Sarah Baxter says the Pathways to Graduate Studies (P2GS) program was everything she expected and more. Coming from Trent University in Peterborough, she didn’t know these kind of research opportunities existed for undergraduate students.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the program returned this summer in a virtual format. The goal is to offer research opportunities for Indigenous students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Baxter worked with Dr. Tabitha Wood, Department of Chemistry, looking at a series of organic molecules, comparing their Ka values against each other.

The 2020 Pathways to Graduate Studies undergraduate students. Photo supplied.

“We created electronic structures of the molecules we wanted to study using software called GAMESS (General Atomic and Molecular Electronic Structure System),” she explained. “The reaction was simulated inside the computer so we could study behaviour of those particular molecules.”

P2GS also gave some undergraduate and graduate students the chance to also teach their peers.

Dylan Robinson, a fourth-year biology major, was a co-facilitator of the biology week with fellow student Josh Swain. He came up with a curriculum, developed PowerPoint slides, and used Zoom to facilitate the material to students.

“It was a great week to work with undergraduates and hopefully I was able to sew my perspectives in the mix,” said Robinson, who recently wrote his MCAT and plans on studying medicine in the future. “While facts are facts, I know the concepts that I found more challenging, so I was able to emphasize how I was able to get around those challenges.”

For Baxter, her biggest takeaway during the four-week program was her career outlook. Originally, she always planned on using her degree to apply for medical school and eventually become a doctor.

However, Wood showed her that the value of scientific knowledge was not just limited to practicing medicine, but was limitless.

“Tabitha really showed me there’s more ways to contribute to science besides being a doctor,” Baxter said. “I think creating a drug that would help millions of patients would be more impactful.”

Most importantly for Robinson, P2GS really opens the door for Indigenous students to gain valuable experience as they decide if they want to pursue graduate studies.

“It’s a great way to promote interest and engagement in the sciences and research among Indigenous students,” he said.

Learn more about the Pathways to Graduate Studies program and the scholars and researchers who participated this summer.

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