Summer internships inspire Laurier Indigenous undergraduate students


Photo by Darien Funk

Indigenous undergraduate students are motivated to pursue their passions in their fields of study after completing summer research internships.

In the summer of 2021, eight Indigenous students at Wilfrid Laurier University had the opportunity to participate in research internships that helped them gain experience, while developing academic skills in a topic they were interested in.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Undergraduate Student Research Award program (USRA), provides program funding for selected undergraduate students to work with faculty mentors on a variety of research projects at a sixteen-week position in an effort to encourage students to pursue graduate studies in those fields.

Here are four Indigenous students who felt their experiences in the USRA program positively impacted their academic careers and sense of personal achievement: 

Stephanie Absalom has completed her B.Sc in Biology, and spent her summer working in Associate Professor Mihai Costea’s laboratory studying the plant species Cuscuta. 

The highlights of her experience were photographing plant specimens, dissecting plants under a microscope and helping to build out a taxonomy of the species.

With her previous study of Indegenous plant uses, this study helped her gain further knowledge on how plants were used in the past, and how their compounds can be used in the future for everyone’s benefit.

She is now graduated and hopes to become a full-time researcher.

Ryan Gauthier completed his BSc in Physics and BA in Mathematics worked with Professor Cristina Stiocia to study principal components analysis––a method of interpreting large data sets. 

In his internship, he collected samples and separated individual instruments based on factors such as pitch and timbre.

His experience this summer helped him refine the focus of his research, and he decided to  continue his work with Stoica who is supervising him in Laurier’s Master of Science in Mathematics program.

Lauren McConnel is a fourth-year student in BBA (Bachelor of Business and Administration) who is specializing in accounting.

This summer was her first time conducting research, and she worked under the supervision of Associate Professor Chunming (Victor) Shi. Together, they studied how COVID-19 has impacted supply chains in remote communities in the Northwest territories. 

Her tasks consisted of imputing information about the different levels of supply chain, from factories to suppliers to customers, along with prices and demand into simulation software.

McConnel enjoyed focusing her research on a topic that was playing out in real time.

Ashley Falconer is a third-year student majoring in Global Studies. She collaborated with Geography and Environmental Studies faculty members Alex Latta and Miguel Sioui in a study about Indigenous approaches to environmental stewardship.

She conducted literature reviews on Indigenous-conserved and protected lands analyzing what has gone on in the past to see what’s working and what’s not.

Through this study, she learned how literature reviews methods, documentation and both theoretical and practical analysis.

After experiencing this internship, she is inspired to take on her academic ambitions in the future!

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