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Award Winners (2016)


National Volunteer Award, Let’s Talk Science Outreach

2016 Award Winner: Portia Kalun, McMaster University

Portia Kalun

“I am constantly thinking of ways that research can be explained to the public to promote the importance of science in their everyday lives.” – Portia Kalun

Portia has worked to bring all facets of science to life for children and youth. Working with the monthly McMaster Children and Youth University (MCYU) program, Portia works with each lecturer to create connected workshops to support the presentations. She has also taken part in the Dandelion Project and has a special interest in working with girls in science.

The judging committee noted that Portia was a very active and talented volunteer. Her commitment to STEM stood out through her vast contributions to the Let’s Talk Science Outreach program. She is learning as she goes and connecting with the program participants in relevant ways. By building on new and existing relationships, Portia exemplifies what the Outreach program aims for when volunteering with children and youth.

2016 Runners-Up

Runner-up: Connie Leung, University of British Columbia

One of the most important things in generating tomorrow’s science leaders is to foster curiosity and critical thinking” - Connie Leung

Through her time volunteering, Connie has shown an ability to innovate through creating new programs and supporting ongoing work. Connie took the lead in organizing Let’s Talk Science at UBC’s first high school symposium on antibiotics. This event brought over 100 students to campus for a day long immersive experience. For the upcoming symposium, Connie worked to raise funds to improve upon the event.

Runner-up: Katherine Reilly, University of Ottawa

I learned that it is more important to ensure that students enjoy the activity they are learning, to allow questions to be asked, and to see where conversations can go.” – Katherine Reilly

Katherine has brought her commitment to science education to a variety of Let’s Talk Science outreach activities. From organizing the annual StemCellTalks symposium to preparing kits for health-science activities to mentoring First Nations students, Katherine brings her attitude of learning together to all her volunteering.

Runner-up: Regina Sinelnikov, University of Alberta

During my tenure as a Let’s Talk Science volunteer it has been a goal of mine to engage students as much as possible in the activities and get them excited about science.” – Regina Sinelnikov

Regina has taken her experiences to help create engaging workshops with students. Learning from each visit, she has created a variety of tactics to best engage the students. She has also worked to create original chemistry activities including states of matter with dry ice and building a ‘chemical garden’ to demonstrate crystal growth and chemical change.

Runner-up: Shira Schwartz, Carleton University

My reason for joining Let’s Talk Science was to encourage students to be interested in science and share my excitement and love of science with children and youth.” – Shira Schwartz

Working with both large scale events and in-class outreach, Shira has contributed to the program in a variety of ways. Shira is able to assess bigger events and look at ways to improve the experience for everyone involved. She initiated a well-received partnership with the local Boy and Girls Club this year to expand their local outreach.

Past Winners

2015 – Curtis McCloskey, University of Ottawa
2014 – Sue McKee, University of Ottawa
2013 – Li Wang, University of Saskatchewan
2012 – Gabriel Potvin, University of Ottawa
2011 – Sara Rafferty, University of Ottawa


Let’s Talk Science David Colcleugh Leadership Award

2016 Award Winner: Emily Ng, University of Calgary

Emily Ng“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 which involves critical thinking, inquiry and creativity skills which ultimately empower an individual.” – Emily Ng

Within Let’s Talk Science at the University of Calgary, Emily stands out. Through her leadership role Emily is inspiring her fellow coordinating team to work hard. Emily helped to build up the local site by moving out of her comfort zone to build strong support for the program with funders and the on-campus community. Under her leadership, the program is building itself up with a strong grassroots flavour.

The judging committee was impressed by Emily’s embodiment of developmental leadership at her local Outreach site. She demonstrated a thorough planning process from developing strategies and a mission to tactics and actions, changing her workstyle as needed. Her focus centered around building a passionate team, fundraising to create a sustainable program, and growing that team for success - at the same time expanding program reach through the cultivation of new partnerships and existing relationships with local First Nations communities.

2016 Runners-Up

Runner-up: William Chan, University of Alberta

William’s focus as a coordinator has centered on building meaningful relationships to ensure a sustainable program at the University of Alberta. Using a personal approach, he works to encourage volunteers. Along with this, he also works to mentor incoming local site coordinators. A special outreach interest of William’s has been with nearby First Nations communities. William says: “Through building relationships with different stakeholders, I strive to create a caring environment that embraces STEM education and its importance in everyday life.”

Runner-up: Alexandra Swirski, University of Guelph

During her time coordinating the Let’s Talk Science Outreach program at the University of Guelph, Alexandra has created lasting partnerships and worked to develop the skills of her volunteers. When making decisions for her local site she works to ensure that all stakeholders are considered and that a positive impact is being demonstrated. Alex says “My personal mission is to increase scientific literacy in rural and under-accessed communities and to provide opportunities for the children in these communities to interact with positive STEM role models.”

Past Winners (of former Let’s Talk Science Outreach Site Coordinator Award)

2015 – Rachel Ward-Maxwell, McMaster University
2014 – Gabriel Potvin, University of Ottawa
2013 – Frances Lasowski, McMaster University
2012 – Megan Dodd, McMaster University
2011 – Julie Mason, University of Toronto, St. George campus


National Volunteer Award, CurioCity

2016 Award Winner: Anna Zhou, University of Toronto

Anna Zhou

In her articles, Anna tackles complex issues in biology and technology. 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.

Anna’s involvement not only contributed directly to the content on CurioCity, but demonstrated her leadership qualities by focusing on influencing others to engage with CurioCity, encouraging them to recognize the importance of science communication. The judging committee was very impressed by her writing along with her non-traditional contributions (for example, reviewing past content).

2016 Runners-Up

Melissa Mathers, York University

Through her articles, Melissa expresses a clear passion for science. She shows teen readers the “cool” side of the topics she discusses while serving as a role model for those interested in pursuing postsecondary studies in a STEM field. Beyond sharing her own enthusiasm and choosing topics that will interest teen readers, she presents complex concepts in a clear and understandable way.

Kelly Resmer, Mount Saint Vincent University

Kelly writes very interesting articles that usually focus on chemistry. She has a proven ability to highlight how STEM is key to understanding the real world in a way that resonates with a teen audience. The article ‘Puppy Love’ provides a well-written explanation of how experiments are used to infer conclusions in science.