By Neale McDevitt
In many ways, yesterday’s Excellence in Research Exhibition was just like a good old-fashioned high school science fair. There was research for the masses, presenters-turned-carnies and a hall full of young students, many interested and engaged and some, clearly just marking time. The main difference? The classic papier mache volcanoes spewing baking soda lava had been replaced by displays highlighting some of the cutting-edge discoveries made by McGill researchers in fields ranging from nanotechnology and microbiology to robotics and music technology.
With almost two-centuries of University leaders gazing down in portraiture from the walls of stately Redpath Hall, an estimated 400 students from Montreal-area high schools and Cegeps pursued the 24 kiosks, listening, learning and, in some cases, cultivating the seed of inspiration.
“I had never thought going into Law, but it seems really interesting,” said Westmount High School’s Emily Shorrock after visiting the display on François Crépeau’s work in international law. “It’s a ways off for me, but it is definitely something I’ll consider.”
Visitors to the exhibit got a quick cross section of the wide range of work being done by McGill researchers. As presenters from Electrical and Computer Engineering spoke about mind-controlled prosthetic devices, others spoke about costume illustration in the digital age or the link between high artic research and the search for life on Mars.
Participating in his first exhibition, Thomas Quinn, Canada Research Chair in Soft Tissue Biophysics in the Department of Chemical Engineering, said he thoroughly enjoyed the break from routine. “As researchers we sometimes get frustrated because we feel like we’re locked away in a corner and no one really cares,” Quinn said in between demonstrations of his work into ways to stimulate cells in soft tissues like cartilage to better repair themselves after injury. “But it is so refreshing to see the enthusiasm in these kids eyes when they talk to me and ask me questions.
“Who knows? Maybe one day one of these very students might walk into my lab.”