Info Synapse - CIHR’s Synapse Newsflash - Issue 1

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Synapse – CIHR Youth Connection

CIHR's Synapse – Youth Connection program was created as a scientific junction between health researchers and Canadian youth. For the past two years, over 4,800 CIHR-funded researchers have expressed interest in being Synapse mentors for high school students from coast-to-coast. Between July 2007 and June 2008, based on survey results, Synapse mentors have devoted 13,000 hours of their busy schedules in order to inspire 55,000 Canadian students.

Since the beginning, we have promised Synapse mentors that we would: a) provide opportunities to educate Canadian youth in their field and venue of choice; b) offer guidelines/workshops for effective youth outreach; and c) supply communication tools that would stimulate interest in science and health research among youth. I'm pleased to say that we are actively pursuing all three of these objectives.

As part of our ongoing devotion to creating the next generation of health researchers, we have decided to start this electronic newsletter to provide further information about the Synapse program's development. I hope you find it to be an enriched source.

Christian Riel
Manager, Youth and Public Outreach
CIHR's Marketing and Communications Branch

Announcing a New Partnership with Let's Talk Science

As a Synapse mentor, CIHR invites you to volunteer in a new collaboration with the Let's Talk Science Partnership Program. This grassroots outreach program partners post-secondary science volunteers with educators and schools in local communities and rural and remote regions across Canada so that they can collectively share knowledge and enthusiasm for science and technology. Last year, over 100,000 children and youth were engaged in hands-on science activities with over 1,600 volunteers.

Each of the 26 Let's Talk Science (LTS) Partnership Program sites across Canada operates as an independent outreach program with unique features based on the strengths of the university or college and the volunteers. The majority of activities take place through a 'partnership' between the volunteer and an educator jointly deciding how the volunteer can provide customized activities to enrich the science and technology curriculum, be a positive role model, and expose children and youth to 'real world' scientific research.

If you are interested in volunteering, or if you have any questions about the LTS Partnership Program, please contact Sue McKee, National Coordinator of the LTS Partnership Program at For more information about Let's Talk Science please visit their website.

Providing All Students Access to Science With the Help of ACTUA

When it comes to educating Canadian youth, CIHR's Synapse program is doing everything possible to make science and health research accessible to all Canadian students. In collaboration with Actua, a non-profit organization that is devoted to developing interest in science and technology among Canada's youth, CIHR engaged youth between the ages of 9 to 14 in innovative and fun hands-on activities that show them how health research is related to everyday life.

"Synapse has been extremely helpful in setting the stage for a larger health research and life sciences initiative," says Jennifer Flanagan, President and CEO of Actua "I'm really pleased that CIHR has set up a youth outreach program, and I think that it's especially effective that they're partnering with organizations that have the expertise and the audience of youth to deliver this program."

Canadian researchers find merit in the educational value of being a Synapse mentor in the first place.
"I am thrilled to hear that students had a great time learning about my passion in life and at the same time enjoyed having their hands extract DNA from bananas," says Kusala M. Jayasuriya, a neuroscience graduate student at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute who is studying molecular and genetic techniques and has taken part in Actua activities. "I find this is a win-win situation. A mentor learns and benefits simply by being a mentor as much as the students learn and benefit from a mentor. I hope that I may inspire at least one budding mind to pursue a career in one of the most exciting fields in medical research."

Self-directed Youth Outreach Efforts: Local 'Career Fairs' for High School Students

Through national and provincial partnerships, CIHR does its best to regularly propose outreach opportunities to its 4,800 mentors (a number that grows as each day passes). But more can be done. We encourage you to explore and create opportunities for yourselves. One of these local opportunities includes approaching one or two local school boards and offering your services for 'Career Fairs' at high schools.

'Career Fairs' are specifically designed as an opportunity for professionals to offer advice to high school students regarding potential career choices. After you've provided this kind of advice, make you sure that you give the students some Synapse Info Cards.

Can Mentors Leave Behind Any Synapse Products for Students That They Meet?

While a website exists, a lot of Synapse mentors want to know if there are any communication products that they can leave behind with students? The answer is 'yes'.

As a mentor, you can leave behind Synapse Info Cards that are specifically designed for high school students. These cards, which can be found as PDF links, are also available in hardcopy.

CIHR has produced magnets, pins and stickers as well – all branded with the CIHR Synapse logo and website. All of these products can be sent to you, through an e-mail request, at:

Making Science Accessible With an Impact

For the year 2008-09, CIHR's Synapse program will be visiting universities across Canada with a Science with Impact workshop. With the help of a group facilitator, an individual participant workbook and video segments on a DVD, this workshop offers CIHR Synapse mentors some training tips that will help them communicate their passion for research to high school students. This year, between September 2008 and March 2009, Science with Impact will visit the following places:

  • University of Victoria
  • Simon Fraser University
  • McGill University
  • University of Calgary
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Toronto
  • Université de Montréal
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Dalhousie University
  • University of Ottawa

Firm dates for these visits have yet to be set, but will be sent to Synapse mentors affiliated with these institutions. The Science with Impact workshop was developed by Lets Talk Science with the financial support of CIHR.

SynapseCIHR Youth Connection
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
160, Elgin Street, 9th Floor
Address Locator 4809A
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0W9 Canada
Telephone: 613-952-9709