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UWinnipeg student research presented at National Indigenous Gathering

Melissa Anderson presents at the AISES in Canada National Gathering in Vancouver. Anderson is a UWinnipeg physics alumna and was the inaugural vice-president of UWinnipeg’s .caISES chapter. She is now a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Manitoba under the supervision of UWinnipeg Physics Professor Dr. Melanie Martin.

A group of outstanding University of Winnipeg undergraduate students and a star alumna have returned from presenting research at a national Indigenous science and engineering summit in British Columbia.

Logan Asham, Gracie Grift, Cassidy Lamirande, Paige Gordon, Abby Cochran, and Melissa Anderson travelled to Vancouver to take part in the 2024 AISES in Canada National Gathering February 29 to March 2.

AISES in Canada is a nonprofit organization focused on increasing the representation of Indigenous peoples in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies and careers. AISES supports undergraduate and graduate students through programs, scholarships, and events, culminating each year in a National Gathering where students and professionals from across Canada create long-lasting connections.

“As Indigenous people in science it can feel lonely, but being surrounded by so many other Indigenous science students, scholars, and professionals at the .caISES conferences, you feel inspired by others’ journeys and that reinforces the importance of the work ahead,” said Angeline Nelson, Director of Community Learning and Engagement at Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre, who also attended the 2024 National Gathering.

“Our team is there to connect with other professionals who are doing STEM outreach and to share resources with one another,” Nelson said. “At the same time, it has been a privilege to support UWinnipeg students presenting their research and supporting their growth.”

UWinnipeg is home to one of 11 post-secondary chapters of .caISES, the Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering Society. The group meets monthly to take part in cultural activities and community events, attend leadership summits, and participate in conferences. In 2020, UWinnipeg’s .caISES chapter received the Stelvio J. Zanin Distinguished Chapter of the Year award. In 2022, the chapter collected the Chapter Development Award.

Exploring academic pathways

Anna Weier, Project Coordinator of Indigenous Leaders in Science, said the UWinnipeg students were excited to attend the National Gathering.

“Conferences can be such a good place to make connections and learn new things,” Weier said.

It was Logan Asham’s second time attending, but first time presenting, at an AISES in Canada National Gathering.

“I wanted to attend the conference to connect with like-minded students in STEM fields, and to explore future career opportunities and academic pathways,” he said.

Last year, Asham developed an interest in the climate impacts of human activity, which ultimately led him to undertake geoscience research with Dr. Nora Casson, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Influences on Water Quality in the Department of Geography.

Attending the National Gathering enabled Asham to share his experiences contributing to a research project and participating in UWinnipeg’s Indigenous Pathway Programs. Four of the five undergraduate students who attended the conference previously completed UWinnipeg’s NSERC-funded Pathway to Graduate Studies Program.

“It was particularly interesting to make connections between my own field of study, business, and what I learned during my research placement,” Asham said. “It was also an excellent exercise in public speaking, which I believe to be a valuable skill that I have always wanted to improve on.”

He thanked the students, faculty, and STEM professionals who made this year’s conference a success.

“I am fortunate to be part of .caISES, and I would like to encourage all students pursuing studies in the STEM fields to come to one of our meetings,” Asham said. “We are always looking to welcome new members.”

In addition to presentations, the UWinnipeg group also enjoyed seeing Stanley Park and other sights around Vancouver. They also attended a keynote address by Manitoba physician Dr. Lisa Monkman, who talked about her experience as an Indigenous woman in medicine.

The UWinnipeg group received travel support from AISES and from UWinnipeg’s Research Office and Aboriginal Student Services Centre. Anderson, a UWinnipeg physics alumna and inaugural vice-president of UWinnipeg’s .caISES chapter, who is now a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Manitoba under the supervision of UWinnipeg Physics Professor Dr. Melanie Martin, also received travel support from NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada).

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