Students of the sciences took a break from regular classroom academia last week at Northwest Community College’s Terrace campus, collaborating, presenting and discussing key topics of their disciplines with one another.
Organized by NWCC students, this first-ever Student Summit was the brainchild of career and college prep instructor Phill Bialobzyski, who recognized students in the north don’t often get the opportunities to present their ideas as often as those in the larger schools of the south.
The summit was cultivated as an open space to share academic ideas, as students from various departments and schools of study presented and discussed research topics.
“I was very pleased with their performance,” Bialobzyski said. “They took some direction but had the initiative to organize and execute their plans. I wanted them to have the opportunity to perform in a conference. It’s the currency of the academic world. The sharing of scientific knowledge is in that sort of format.”
Bialobzyski felt aspects of project management were important also to help students break down larger tasks into more manageable units, as well foster team-building skills crucial for the scientific fields.
“By having an experience of doing that, it is going to prepare students for their careers,” he said.
In total seven disciplines were represented by NWCC student teams—molecular biology, physics, chemistry, anthropology, microbiology and career and college preparation in biology, chemistry and math. Each team presented their ideas on three presentation posters, each with their own focus. Only the hydrology team presented four topics, but with a penchant for puns to make it worthwhile: Water you looking at? Water we up to? Can you dig it? and A watershed moment.
Limnology students from Terrace’s University of Northern British Columbia were also invited to the summit with their own topics on Lakelse Lake, furthering the opportunities for student collaboration.
“The UNBC campus is an even smaller community (than NWCC), so it kind of forced us to come together and do this conference as a whole instead of isolating them and isolating us,” Keegan Bellamy, a NWCC physics student and summit co-organizer said. “That was really good. Although we are kind of isolated, compared to the lower mainland…we do pretty well up here.”
Bellamy was the project lead on a presentation of the nuclear reactor meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, in 2013. It provided a scientific overview of events and an update on radiation concerns on North America’s west coast.
Team member and summit co-organizer Austin Turner said the aim was to provide accurate information to allow conference goers to reach their own conclusions on the risks of nuclear power as an energy source.
“I don’t think many people would be interested in a lot of the concepts we explore in physics, except for radiation. It’s the kind of the thing people often wonder about, but don’t know much about, especially with nuclear reactors.”
A major concern for British Columbians was how Fukishima’s radiation might affect local fish, marine life and ecosystems, Bellamy said, which prompted the desired questions and discussions at the summit.
Six NWCC culinary arts students also contributed their skills to the summit with a lunch created by Chef Brad Bennard.
‘The food was definitely a highlight, Turner said with a laugh. “There was a good number of people throughout the summit, but as soon as the food came out I swear there was a hundred people that came out of nowhere.”