Douglas College professor Randy Alex came to Riverside to talk to students about an opportunity to participate in a science work experience. By allowing students to work in a lab, Alex hopes the students will have a closer look inside the world of being a working scientist. The placement begins on January 8 and students will be in it every day for approximately two weeks, from 8:30 am to 4:30pm. To be available for the work experience in January, students do an accelerated curriculum September to December. “This means that we are already done our curriculum, even for chemistry,” said grade 11 Riverside student, Caitlyn Shyng.

Alex has been working at Douglas College for 22 years and will be retiring at the end of February. He had spoken to Riverside Secondary science teacher, Mrs. Deb Mackenzie-Pearce, who informed him about a science co-op program she runs in grade 11 and presented the idea of having Riverside students come out to do work placements. As a result, Alex has partnered with Riverside for the past ten years. “We do work experience placements out there with him and he usually takes five or six students with him,” said Mackenzie-Pearce.

This year he currently has four grade 11 students from Riverside: two of the students will be in chemistry, one will be in biology and one student, Shyng, will be shared between Veterinary Technology, Chemistry and Biology. Two of the students are yet to find out if they plan on pursuing a career within science. Shyng plans on pursuing sciences but is unsure in exactly what field. “I thought it was a good idea to choose this work experience over the regular work experience,” said Shyng. “It’s because it allows me to work alongside people in the medical field as well as the other science fields.” Daveen Yang, who will be going into the chemistry placement at Douglas College plans to pursue a career involving science, but is not sure what field. “I thought that this placement would be good for me because I wanted to find out if I actually want to do something in science,” said Yang. According to Shyng, the students will be participating in a Titration lab (a chemistry lab) and that the course Douglas College students take is equivalent to chemistry 12.

The work that the students will do involve many tasks lab staff do along the way. “We try to get them to do the actual work we do,” said Alex. “We try to get them plugged into the lab.” The students will sample vials they’d use during standard experiments, weigh out the samples and put them in. “They would cut up pieces of old pop cans because we dissolved them in one experiment in Chemistry 1108,” said Alex. Students also do computer projects such as the MSDS, the chemical information system sheets that need to be updated. According to Alex, this usually takes them the first week. “I try to get my colleagues, the other professors here, to also come up with some projects as well,” said Alex. “One colleague of mine is doing a student research out in the community, environmental type research.” One student will be going out for a day to collect samples such as river or creek samples, and bring them back in.

Aside from the hands on work, students will also do a little bit of academic work. According to Alex, they try to do the academics in a very practical and applied way. “We have them sit in one Chemistry 1108 lecture that is the equivalent of chemistry 12, we have them do one experiment in the Chemistry 12 lab, so they get a little bit of a flavour,” said Alex. According to Mackenzie-Pearce, the students who participated in the work experience were able to get summer jobs because of participating in the experience. Many students are doing outstanding work. “Some people are going into council research centers, four kids are going to spinal research place; there is one student who is placed with a pediatrician; and, a variety of students are at a research lab at UBC.”

Alex, who is retiring at the end of February has passed on his course on to one of his colleagues, who is very passionate about chemistry like himself and has experience. “She has done a really good job,” said Alex. Alex hopes that the work experience tradition will continue.