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(May 29—Toronto, ON) The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced that the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute Youth Outreach Program has won the 2012 CIHR Synapse Mentorship Award – Research Group. The program is led by the Lunenfeld’s Public Outreach Coordinator, Lorien Newell.
“Science is essential to modern society but has a lot of barriers to entry. The outreach program is the Lunenfeld’s way to communicate to our kids that science is cool and to get them interested,” noted Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of the Lunenfeld. “Lorien is the brain, face and heart of the program and this honour is incredibly well deserved.”
The $10,000 award recognizes the achievements of a group that has made exceptional efforts to promote health research among Canada’s high school students. Through mentorship, the winning group regularly motivates youth to consider both the value of health research as well as career opportunities that exist within various scientific fields. The winning group is nominated by someone who understands its direct scientific contributions to young people, and is chosen by members of the CIHR Youth Outreach Advisory Board.
“The Lunenfeld outreach team is honoured to receive the 2012 CIHR Synapse Award,” says Newell, who has worked on various youth-related science education programs at the Lunenfeld since 2005. “Our outreach activities give thousands of students throughout Ontario the unique opportunity to learn about fascinating areas of health research that they are not exposed to in their science curriculum, and we hope that this exposure will encourage them to pursue careers as young scientists.”
For 15 years, the Lunenfeld has mentored 30,000 Canadian youth in various ways through its youth outreach programs. With SciHigh workshops in schools, the program’s graduate scientist volunteers have taught Grades 1 through 12 students about subjects like the isolation of DNA in bananas and genetics in model organisms.
Through Science Days, high school students have learned about fetal health and molecular genetics in human cancers at the Lunenfeld. For eight weeks every summer, five high school students have had the chance to work on a research project through an internship at the Lunenfeld.
Also, thanks to the program’s annual science fair, grades 7 and 8 Toronto students have developed projects with a health or biomedical-related topic. Each November, with Take Your Kids to Work Day, grade 9 students can go to the Lunenfeld’s labs and learn about science through on-site demonstrations.
The program also participates in Science Rendezvous each year, welcoming the general public into the Lunenfeld for tours and to participate in hands-on workshops, and partners with Pathways to Education to reach out to low-income youth.
“The Lunenfeld has achieved great success with their youth outreach program,” says Dr. Jane Aubin, CIHR’s Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President of Research and Knowledge Translation Portfolio. “Their devotion to education through various means serves as a model that other research groups can aspire to follow.” 
CIHR’s Synapse – Youth Connection initiativeacts as a meeting place—a scientific junction that brings together health researchers and young students. More than 9,000 CIHR-funded health researchers from across the country have already signed up to become CIHR Synapse mentors. Synapse, in collaborative partnership with national science outreach organizations, connects these mentors with high school students through hands-on training experience that will help create the next generation of Canadian health researchers.

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