A major goal of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is to train undergraduate and graduate students for excellence in research, to develop skills for biomedical research and foster critical thinking. In order to promote access to research opportunities for undergraduates from equity deserving backgrounds we launched a Work Learn program. This program is directly aimed at BMB students from under-represented groups in STEM including BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, students with disabilities, and women as approved in our BC Human Rights Special Program.
As part of the program, undergraduates without prior research experience are paired with a host lab and mentor. As part of the program we also hired a Program Coordinator, a graduate student from within our grad program. The coordinator led a series of orientation sessions that helped the undergraduate trainees learn about the expectations for working in a lab and the basics of how the research labs function. The mentors also received an orientation session that included training on EDI and mentorship skill building. Undergraduate trainees then spent 8-10 hrs/week for the academic year working in two different research labs in BMB. Students gained valuable, real world research experience including how to conduct a variety of bench techniques, troubleshoot experiments, keep a lab notebook, present their findings and generally learning if lab research is something they would like to pursue as a future career. Trainees also gained additional “soft” skills in the form of a workshop on resume and cover letter writing, interviewing and job searches.
The initial launch of the program in 2021 had 10 students and overwhelming positive feedback from students, mentors and principle investigators in the host labs. Students report that the program was useful for their future career and that they would recommend it to others. We have since expanded the program out for summer 2022 and the 2022/2023 school year.
Fall 2022-Spring 2023 work learn program in collaboration with the ImmunoTheraputics Cluster of Excellence provides research experience for 15 undergraduates.
The second program in summer 2022, had 4 students working 20hr/week in research labs.
One of the best opportunities I have ever gotten, and I would definitely re-do it!
I believe it’s important to allow students from marginalized communities to prove themselves. I believe this placement is a great addition to the biochemistry program!