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Events

STEM Fusion – March 5, 2020

The inaugural networking event was co-hosted by Campus Alberta Neuroscience, Office of Research Services, Agility and RNA Innovation. Highlights included a keynote address from Connor Batchelor of Aurora Cannabis. RNA Innovation trainees presented as part of the Catalyst Talks and were able to meet one-on-one with industry partners.

The second STEM Fusion Event is being planned for May 3, 2021.

RNA Innovation Networking – Nov 19, 2020

While we weren’t able to meet in-person, trainees were still able to participate in a networking event. Trainees received advice on CV/resume prep, good job seeking skills, and met several industry partners. Question and answer sessions with FREDSence, Corteva, TATUM, Molecular Forecaster, SN Biomedical and Amino Labs provided the trainees opportunities to learn about different career pathways and emerging technologies.

Scientific Leadership Course

"This class has given me practice in basic professional skills that will help me succeed."

Daniel Rocca

The practical applications of RNA research and innovation has never been more prominent than in 2020 with the development of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines. The joint RNA Innovation program at the University of Lethbridge and Université de Sherbrooke aims to create scientific leaders in RNA research. This unique NSERC CREATE program enables trainees to gain relevant industry experience through industry-driven R&D challenges and internship placements. In addition, trainees participate in the RNA Innovation Scientific Leadership course (BCHM5850/7850). Developed by the U of L Board of Governors’ Teaching Chair, Dr. Ute Kothe, this exclusive course brought together students from around the world.

“During the Fall 2020 semester, we had students participating from Lethbridge and Sherbrooke, as well as India and Egypt,” explained Dr. Kothe. “We knew this course was going to have students spanning across Canada due to the unique nature of the RNA Innovation program. But due to the pandemic, we had students stuck outside of Canada still able to actively participate.”

Throughout the course, trainees received comprehensive training in leadership skills including scientific ethics and integrity, equity, diversity, and inclusion as well as professional communication.

“This course is a great supplement to any graduate student education,” says Emily Wilton, a first year U of L PhD student.

A wide variety of guest speakers were brought in to offer their unique perspective on scientific leadership, including Dr. Sarah Viehbeck, Associate Vice-President, Research Programs – Strategy at CIHR. In her talk, she discussed issues involving equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) at granting agencies and what these agencies are doing to address unconscious bias.

“It was shocking and surprised me (…) to know about the type of bias that exists,” expressed Bimaldeep Singh, a U of L MSc student currently still in India. “(Understanding) the presence of bias in ourselves, knowingly or unknowingly, helped me clear up my mind towards implicit bias.”

Collaborating with Dr. Michael Stingl and his graduate students, Michaela Thompson & Jodi Newman, from the U of L Department of Philosophy, RNA Innovation trainees discussed the ethics and integrity needed to make tough decisions.

“Being ethical should be the most dominant trait not only as a scientist but as a human,” says Riya Roy, U of L MSc student. “I was introduced to a totally unknown philosophical world. The simplified presentation, along with our comprehensive discussions gave a new dimension to my current thought process.”

Teamwork and collaboration were strong themes throughout the course and gave students an opportunity to gain different perspectives. Most projects were completed in groups, and frequently the students grappled with controversial topics in debates.

“The most effective portion of this class was the collaborative aspect of the group meetings,” said Daniel Rocca, a first year MSc student at U of L. “The benefit to the class was that overall, it prepared me for my transition to being a grad student. Moving into grad studies felt like there were more expectations on me despite not being any more prepared for them. This class has given me practice in basic professional skills that will help me succeed.”

Dr. HJ Wieden, Director of RNA Innovation explains “the RNA Innovation Scientific Leadership course is helping to prepare the next generation for the complicated world of work. We are teaching them not only cutting-edge RNA research but how to be critical and inclusive leaders in their field.”

Dr. Kothe is looking forward to teaching the next cohort this fall.