University of Calgary

All in the family

UToday HomeApril 20, 2012

Medical student Rabiah Syed pictured after her CYSF win in 2007. Photo courtesy of Syed familyStudent Rabiah Syed pictured after her CYSF win in 2007. Photo courtesy of Syed familyA prominent researcher has highlighted the importance of science fairs in developing the next generation of scientists as the 50th Calgary Youth Science Fair (CYSF) begins today.

Professor Naweed Syed, head of the cell biology and anatomy department, says science fairs are essential for getting young people excited science and fostering critical thinking and inquiry-based learning.

“I believe that instilling the seeds of curiosity-driven research early in our children's life is pivotal for our knowledge-based economy of the future,” he says. “Events such as this are absolutely essential as they provide our young and bright minds with the opportunity to explore the world around them freely—to become aware of societal problems, and how best to solve them.”

Syed has assisted numerous high school students participating in a range of competition and events, but his only direct involvement with the CYSF was more personal. His two children participated at the CYSF in high school.

For university student Rabiah Syed, her natural curiosity was enhanced by her CYSF participation in 2006 and 2007. She and project partner Samantha Weerasekera won a silver medal in 2006, then a gold medal and the biochemistry and experimental biology prize in 2007.

“My project partner and I used to talk about which brand of mouthwash killed more germs and played a better role in our oral hygiene,” she says. “One of the professors allowed us to grow bugs in the presence or absence of various mouth washes and we presented this research at the science fair. Our second curiosity was focused at mercury dental amalgam and if it caused brain cell degeneration.”

She says the experiences led her to become interested in pursuing a career in research. ”For my father, research and higher learning are a way of life. He always made us realize that life was too precious to throw away at just any career, and that the conquest of knowledge—its creation and dissemination to better the lives of other is far more important.”

Syed says these “young and bright minds are the best that the human race has ever produced.”