BCIT research lab provides practical experience for students

This summer, BCIT Applied Research supported three BCIT Biotechnology students and one Food Technology student in successfully completing their summer research opportunities to gain the practical experience, industry connections, and collaborative experience for success in their future workplace. The Applied Research’s Natural Health and Food Products Research Group (NRG) successfully obtained funding through Eco Canada to hire four students to work on investigative research relating to kombucha and hand sanitizer. Following guidelines from the Provincial Health Officer, BC Centre for Disease Control, and WorkSafeBC, strict safety protocols and measures were in place to ensure the safety of students and researchers.

The Natural Health and Food Products Research Group (NRG) have been hiring students since 2002. More than 100 students, including undergraduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral students, have gained valuable experience in the lab, with $200,000 worth of funding from a variety of sources such as Canada Summer Jobs, Eco Canada, and Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA).

“Providing hands-on applied research opportunities benefits students but also provides direct benefits to industry,” says Kim Dotto, Dean Applied Research and Centre for Applied Research and Innovation, “students gain valuable lab experience employers will benefit from as future employees.”

“It is always a rewarding experience to hire students from different BCIT programs,” Dr. Paula Brown, Director, BCIT Natural Health and Food Products Research Group (NRG), Canada Research Chair, “even after more than 20 years at BCIT, I am continuously amazed at how diverse our programs are and how well prepared BCIT students are for taking on unique challenges.”

Andrew Williamson, NRG Summer Student

Andrew Williamson, BCIT Food Technology Student, NRG Summer Student

Working in the NRG lab with challenges developing throughout our experiments was fun and rewarding. There will always be unforeseen hitches when performing experiments and learning to navigate them can be difficult, but, I was able to apply what I have learned from the NRG researchers to find effective solutions.

I find myself much more efficient in my work because of the exceptional work habits that I have learned in the lab. When you work with a group, each person has their own unique work techniques to learn from which will definitely benefit me in the future.

Being a summer student is a perfect opportunity to learn what a research career looks like, especially for students that are curious and are driven to find answers.

I am so excited, NRG has secured Eco Canada funding for me to work part-time this fall!

Palak Tank, NRG Summer Coop Student working in the lab.

Palak Tank, BCIT Biotechnology Student, NRG Summer Student

I truly enjoyed the positive environment that was created in the NRG lab. The NRG staff showed compassion, support, and respect throughout the time that I have worked there. As my first co-op experience, this was more than I could ask for.

Apart from the analytical laboratory skills, this opportunity provided me with effective communication, problem-solving, and most importantly, essential team-work skills to maintain a supportive work environment. These skills will leave me with a greater value of collaboration in my future studies.

Summer research work is an excellent platform to explore if students want to gain a good understanding of working in a laboratory oriented environment, fascinate themselves with exciting research projects, and most importantly, to build upon their critical thinking skills.

Angie Zhou, NRG Summer Coop Student, in the testing lab

Angie Zhou, BCIT Biotechnology Student,  NRG Summer Student

During my summer at NRG, I was given the opportunity to prepare solvents, solutions, and samples of different viscosities, concentrations, and solubility, which allowed me to learn and improve lab techniques crucial for the future of my biotech career. I also learned how to operate new equipment, including analytical instruments important for the upcoming school year.

Working in NRG, I was able to experience finding research to support an idea, using research to develop a plan, and executing a plan through lab work and testing.

Paul Russ Agawin, NRG Summer Coop Student

Paul Russ Agawin, BCIT Biotechnology Student, NRG Summer Student

NRG provided me with the opportunity to become more confident and working independently, which will help with lab work and my career in the future. I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects, which allowed me to learn a lot about many health products, from Kombucha to hand sanitizers. I learned how to operate numerous pieces of equipment that I had only previously learned about in theory in my classes, such as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machine which is used to separate, identify, and quantify each component in a mixture.

NRG was very accommodating to all of the students in the midst of COVID-19, allowing us to work safely at home or in the lab with strict safety protocols and measures in place.

About BCIT Natural Health and Food Products Research Group

The BCIT Natural Health and Food Products Research Group (NRG) addresses issues of product quality, process improvement and human health using basic and applied science along with state of the art technology. The goal is to ensure that all Canadians can achieve the potential health and economic benefits offered by medicinal plants, natural health products and the food industry.

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