I've been lucky enough to have grown up very close to science, and from a very young age I knew I wanted to pursue a scientific career, though in what field specifically, I am still unsure. One of the advantages of going into science is getting to travel the world and experience different places! I really enjoy travelling, and outside of school I spend as much time as I can trying new things and picking up new skills. Aside from science, my other extra curricula’s include piano, volleyball, and choir. I'm hoping to become a professor in the future.
Breeding for resistance to leaf rust is the most effective strategy to prevent yield losses in wheat, a crop which contributes $11B annually to Canada’s economy. This project studied the effectiveness of several resistance genes commonly found in Western Canadian varieties, which will help breeders achieve more effective and durable leaf rust resistance in wheat.
What motivated you to participate in SBC? Did anyone encourage you?
After hearing about the SBCC program through a presentation at my school, I was immediately interested in participating. Prior to the SBCC, I hadn't had much experience with science, other than what was taught through the curriculum at school. However, I knew that this would be a great opportunity to learn about experiments that go on day to day at places like the university or research labs in my city, and around the world as well. I had a lot of support from my parents, as well as many friends who were participating in the competition as well. I was curious to know how scientific research went about after high school, and this was a great experience to get a taste of what working in a real laboratory is like, as well as to help me consider what field of science I'd like to pursue after I graduate.
Where did your project idea come from?
Saskatchewan is a province known for its many crops, and for that, it was only suitable to choose a topic related to agriculture. Our province is responsible for 10 percent of the world's total exported wheat, and in order to maintain that status, scientists and farmers need to overcome barriers that affect their crops each year. One of these barriers is a fungal disease known as leaf rust. Here in Canada, we can lose up to 40% of our crops due to leaf rust, which can be a 40% loss in an $11 billion industry. My partner and I decided to focus on this topic as it's very close to home. We were looking for ways to use resistance genes already present in wheat (specifically bread wheat) and see what combinations of these genes could most effectively resist leaf rust.
What about your work might be of interest to other teens or impact their everyday life?
Twenty percent of the calories consumed around the world come from wheat, so it's a big deal if our grain producers are losing crops because of leaf rust. Not only that, the process that goes into studying wheat is just a window into the vast research that is being done just studying agriculture, and how we can use science to improve our current methods. Teens can probably relate to this branch of science the most, as its effects can be seen immediately in our day-to-day lives. I think we can all agree that bread and pasta are staples in most of our diets
(not to mention quite delicious as well!).
What was your favourite part of the experience? Was there anything you found especially challenging?
The entire process was incredible, and unlike anything you would do for school. My favourite part was definitely presenting, and showing everyone what you worked so hard on for half year (or possibly more!). All those six or seven hour days working in a lab become worth it when you finally get to see your work being put on display, and the judges and other members of the public finding it interesting and asking you questions about your research. Winning or not, it's amazing just having people you might not know finding interest in your work, and you being able to explain to them all the little details that went into your project.
Science is no easy field to go into. Through the SBCC, I really got a taste of how hard scientists work everyday to change our lives. The most challenging part of the experience was when I was faced with results that I wasn't looking for, or when some of my work became invalidated after a couple of months, because the protocol or experimental design I was following originally, wasn't actually any good. It's silly to assume that great results will happen on the first try, or any try for that matter, but it's also really difficult to scrap something you poured your heart into, just because it didn't work and start all over again. It's easy to get discouraged when something doesn't work out, especially since experiments are usually things that require a couple of months to perform, but through SBCC, I've learned that great results don't come from something that was done in a day, or even a month! Good research that yields good results takes tiresome hours, but more importantly, tireless dedication.
What would be your advice for other youth considering participation in SBC?
Go for it! Even if you are unsure of what to study, at this age, it's important to be open to a variety of different ideas! Regardless of what field you study for your project, the SBCC provides amazing facilities and opportunities for you to take advantage of. When you finally get to work on your project, my best advice would be to get to know everything you are working with quite well, as it makes the experience much more interesting. You'll have more questions to ask your mentor, and it opens up the floor to a lot more creativity when coming up with experiments. Don't be afraid to try something just because you think it might not work out! Science is all about trial and error, and it's always good to keep an open mind and positive attitude. Remember: scientists are doing what you do everyday and not every experiment they do goes well, so don't expect all yours to be perfect either! Finally, when it's time to present, present your research with confidence! You deserve to be applauded for the amazing work you've been doing; so be brave, be bold, because your research may just change the world! :)