Year of Science highlights bright prospects for students

Science students at Vancouver Island University are poised to tap into well-paying science-related jobs when they graduate.

That’s the word from Ida Chong, Minister of Science and Universities and Minister of Regional Economic and Skills Development, who visited VIU’s Nanaimo campus this week to meet with biology and chemistry students and tell them about the provincial government’s Year of Science initiative.

Ida Chong (centre left), Minister of Science and Universities and Minister of Regional Economic and Skills Development, visited VIU’s Nanaimo campus this week with Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantalon. They met with biology and chemistry students and faculty to promote the provincial government’s Year of Science initiative.

Chong told students a new labour market report predicts the number of science-related careers in British Columbia will increase dramatically over the next decade, and that students studying natural and applied science will have the best future career prospects in BC.

The report, Science Related Occupations, forecasts a 26-per cent increase in science related occupations in the province by 2019. According to Chong, by the end of this decade, three quarters of all future jobs in BC will need some post-secondary education. Many of the most interesting and well-paying jobs will need a solid understanding of math, sciences, engineering and technologies.

The Year of Science, running from September 2010 to June 2011, is a major cross-government initiative led by the Ministry of Science and Universities.

“Through the Year of Science, the BC government wants to help families connect with the passion and exhilaration of scientific discovery, and profile the people and organizations who are bringing science to life in BC,” said Chong.

“The Year of Science is an important way we can engage young people and others in discovering how scientific research has changed our lives from medical breakthroughs, to climate change, to new ways to use renewable resources like wood fibres,” said Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon. “Career opportunities on the leading edge of science are exciting and diverse.”

A government website dedicated to the Year of Science states the goal is to engage young people and others in science by showcasing how science works, who scientists are, the kinds of work they do, and why science matters in the everyday lives of British Columbians and the communities they live in.

During her visit to VIU, Chong heard first-hand accounts from chemistry and biology students who study and work in VIU’s multi-million dollar Applied Environmental Research Laboratories (AERL). She was impressed to hear that undergraduate students like Cam Newhook are doing their part to help mentor and educate young people about science.

Newhook is a founding member of a VIU student club called Awareness of Climate Change Through Education and Research (ACER) which strives to get young people excited about science. Since its inception, club members have met with more than 5,000 high school students to raise the level of awareness about the science and implications of climate change.

Newhook, who graduated from a Nanaimo high school, also told Chong about how his first-hand research experience in the AERL solidified his decision to attend graduate school at the University of Victoria and pursue a career in science. Like other VIU science grads, he’s continuing his graduate research in the AERL because of the high quality of faculty supervisors and the facility.

“It has a great reputation and we have cutting-edge instrumentation designed in-house which isn’t available anywhere else,” he said.

Students work in the AERL alongside chemistry professors Dr. Erik Krogh and Dr. Chris Gill to conduct pure and applied research related to analytical and environmental chemistry. This early engagement in the practice of ‘doing’ science has had a transformative effect on student outcomes.

The AERL team’s focus is on developing new and improved strategies for the measuring chemical determinants of human and environmental health.

“We are on the leading edge of an evolution in the discipline of ‘bringing the measurement to the sample’ rather than the other way around,” Krogh said. This technique has several advantages including faster response and less chance of contaminating samples.

Krogh said VIU students were pleased to meet Chong and share their personal stories and research focus with the Minister.

For further information about the government’s Year of Science website,visit