Students gain valuable work experience with Natural Health Products Applied Research Group

This summer, BCIT Natural Health and Food Products Research Group (NRG) hosted three exceptional students from the BCIT Food Technology Diploma program, as well as the Honours in Biotechnology program.

Student researcher Nhi Phan Nguyen, and NRG Research Associate Hong Sy.

NRG, a long-time supporter of the Biotechnology co-operative education program, has been hiring BCIT summer students for over 20 years. “Students actively participate in NRG’s research and gain hands-on experience that enhances their academic studies at BCIT,” says Hong Sy, NRG Research Associate, “This ensures they are job-ready for their future careers.”

This year, NRG hosted Sophie Thanasack and Ben Ollinger of the Biotechnology program and Food Technology student Nhi Phan Nguyen. The students were able to pursue their research thanks to funding secured through Canada Summer Jobs, NSERC’s Undergraduate Student Research Award, and the BCIT Learning and Teaching grant.

Student researcher Ben Ollinger.

Second-year Biotechnology student Ben Ollinger’s time at NRG was an eye-opening experience that sparked a newfound curiosity in botany. Working with alternative plant species in the laboratory, Ben was exposed to the rich diversity and complexity of botanicals.

“Working at NRG was an incredible experience that solidified my decision to specialize in botany after my time at BCIT,” shares Ben. “I had the opportunity to work with and learn about numerous plants I had never encountered before. It truly opened my eyes to the vast number of plants available to us and the need for further research in this field.”

Nhi Phan Nguyen, a first-year Food Technology student had the opportunity to work in NRG’s newly constructed Food Research for Safety and Health Lab (FRESH Lab). Reflecting on her experience, Nhi Phan says, “Through this opportunity, I had the chance to work on various projects, including those focused on confectionery products and the utilization of 3D food printers and new processing equipment. It was an exhilarating experience. The NRG team was friendly and dedicated, providing me with a glimpse into what my future in the food industry might hold.”

Student researcher Sophie Thanasak, and NRG Project Leader Dr. Anika Singh.

Biotechnology student Sophie Thanasack participated in a variety of unique projects during her time at NRG that exposed her to the world of academia. She attended a conference in Montreal, where she presented a poster showcasing their work and collaborated with a lab at UBC to develop biodegradable packaging films. Reflecting on her growth, she says, “Over the past few months, I have acquired a wide range of new skills and gained a clearer understanding of the type of work I may want to pursue in my future career.”

Throughout the summer, these three exceptional students collaborated, learned, and shared their passion for science within the NRG laboratories. Through their work on a variety of different projects, their growth within their respective fields of study has been evident.

Dr. Paula Brown, NRG Director, is big supporter of hosting summer student internships. “Because specialized training in the chemistry and analysis of natural health products is not currently available from any academic institution in Canada, the instruction and mentorship that NRG provides to students is paramount to their on-going success in this field.”

About NRG

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 of NRG 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.

For more information, please contact Hong Sy.

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