Let’s Talk Science honours post-secondary students and professional volunteers with National Volunteer Awards

Portia Kalun of McMaster University, Emily Ng of the University of Calgary and Anna Zhou of the University of Toronto take home this year’s national volunteer awards

Let’s Talk Science is delighted to announce Portia Kalun of McMaster University winner of National Volunteer Award, Let’s Talk Science Outreach, Emily Ng of the University of Calgary winner of the David Colcleugh Leadership Award and Anna Zhou of the University of Toronto winner of the NEW National Volunteer Award, CurioCity.

Portia Kalun

The National Volunteer Award, Let’s Talk Science Outreach recognizes an outstanding Let’s Talk Science Outreach volunteer who is passionate about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The recipient is a volunteer committed to enhancing science education through effective communication, innovation in approach and in their activities, and is a positive role model for children and teens.

“I am constantly thinking of ways that research can be explained to the public to promote the importance of science in their everyday lives.” said Portia in her nomination application.  Portia has worked to bring all facets of science to life for children and youth. During the monthly Let’s Talk Science at McMaster University, McMaster Children and Youth University (MCYU) program, Portia works with each lecturer to create connected workshops. She has also taken part in the Dandelion Project, and working with girls in science.

Runners-up for the 2016 National Volunteer Award, Let’s Talk Science Outreach include: Connie Leung from the University of British Columbia, Katherine Reilly from the University of Ottawa, Regina Sinelnikov from the University of Alberta, and Shira Schwartz from Carleton University.

Emily Ng

The David Colcleugh Leadership Award recognizes an outstanding Let’s Talk Science Outreach site coordinator who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, meaning (s)he has influenced people to create positive change through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach.

“It was through numerous academic, personal and professional experiences that led to this realization that STEM engagement leads to student development of a scientific mindset,” commented Emily in her award application. “[That mindset] involves critical thinking, inquiry and creativity skills which ultimately empower an individual”. Under her leadership, the Let’s Talk Science Outreach Program at the University of Calgary has been reborn with a strong grassroots flavor When discussing her team of over 350 Let’s Talk Science Outreach volunteers, Emily emphasizes they are extremely hard-working and wonderful to work with. It is through her team where Emily’s true leadership skills shine. 

 “Each of the candidates demonstrated the important leadership core value of service to others and a determination to make sustainable positive change as the foundation of their work”, said David Colcleugh, member of the award committee review panel, and past Let’s Talk Science board member whom the award is named after.  “What set Emily's work apart was her demonstrated recognition that role model leaders are complete, disciplined, systematic thinkers at all levels of thought from the aspirational vision of the future they want to create, to clear, specific actions well implemented.”

Runners-up for the David Colcleugh Leadership Award include William Chan from the University of Alberta and Alexandra Swirski from the University of Guelph.

Anna Zhou

The National Volunteer Award, CurioCity recognizes a CurioCity volunteer who has shown exceptional commitment and has made outstanding contributions to the program. Nominations for this award are open to our post-secondary and professional volunteers.

“Through my writing activities with CurioCity and with the Medical News Bulletin, I aim to make the life sciences and medical/health sciences available and accessible to youth and to the general public with articles that are simultaneously scientifically accurate and easy to understand,” said Anna in her award application.  “In addition, by volunteering as a Laboratory Host in the Kids Science program at the Hospital for Sick Children, I have been able to provide an important first-hand example for my laboratory and research department of how to engage youth with STEM.”

“In her articles, Anna tackles complex issues in biology and technology,” writes Steven Watt, Coordinator, Online Engagement at Let’s Talk Science and a review committee member for the award. “She writes about difficult topics, such as immune cells or the impacts of mobile device use, in ways that are interesting and accessible to teen readers.  Anna has also supported CurioCity by reviewing older content to help ensure it remains accurate and meets current standards.”

The other finalists were Melissa Mathers, a graduate student at York University, and Dr. Kelly Resmer, a lab instructor at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Portia and Emily will be formally recognized at this year’s Let’s Talk Science National Outreach Banquet, to be held at 6:30 p.m. on June 4, 2016 at the Best Western Plus Lamplighter Inn in London, Ontario.  A separate private address will take place to acknowledge Anna for her contributions to CurioCity.

For more details about the National Volunteer Awards, visit our National Volunteer Awards Page.