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Teams visit city high schools to give lessons on immunology

Snyder Institute engages students with science through hands-on activities and lectures

Graduate students Khusraw Jamil and Ania Zuba at Ernest Manning High School teaching all about the difference between viruses and bacteria

Day of Immunology has become a globally recognized initiative celebrated worldwide each April 29 since 2007. This day marks an occasion for scientists and immunologists to create awareness of public health, to bridge the gap between the scientific research, to advocate health and wellness, and to promote education toward the growing understanding of the immune system.

Faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases took this occasion as an opportunity to visit Bowness, Lord Beaverbrook, Centennial and Ernest Manning High Schools to engage students with science through the teaching of a variety of concepts around immunology.

Through interactive lectures, dynamic hands-on activities and real-life experiments, students were educated on the immune system, antibiotics, vaccinations, viruses, bacteria, and the future of immunology. This year also spearheaded an Ask a Scientist component, which allowed the Grade 11 biology students to ask their burning questions to real researchers about the potential of a career path in science.

“This is a time in high school students’ lives where they will be deciding what types of courses they will take in their senior year of high school, and when they are starting to think about their future as they embark on post-secondary training,” says Craig Jenne, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infectious Diseases (MIID). He initiated the event alongside Guido van Marle, and Bjöern Petri, both from the Department of MIID. “We wanted to open the doors to high school students who may not know that a career in science even exists.”

Event is a 'chance to expose and inspire youth'

Teams started out with an icebreaker activity that taught students the concept of DNA replication, while seeing how quickly DNA can mutate. They also took part in a murder mystery where they learned about antibodies and comparing blood samples. They even got the chance to fill their own petri dishes with bacteria from around their school, which has now been taken back to UCalgary labs to grow.

“We looked at Day of Immunology as a chance to expose and inspire youth into all of the possibilities of science and research, while also creating awareness of some key areas of health and wellness” says van Marle. “The enthusiasm and energy we felt from the classrooms and the interactions we all had while we visited was really quite refreshing.”

When teams were asked why they wanted to take part in something like this, the answer from everyone was simple: “If we can inspire one person with science on this day, then it was worth every minute.”

UCalgary participants in Day of Immunology

Participants included Craig Jenne, Guido van Marle, Bjöern Petri, Kelsey McCarroll, Rachelle Davis, Michelle Love, Aubrey Michi, Arthur Lau, Khusraw Jamil, Rachel Kratofil, Ania Zuba, Alya Abbas Heirali, Courtney Schubert, Madison Turk and Elyse Granton, Maria Gallant, and Caitlyn MacDonald.

The Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases was named in 2008 in honour of Joan Snyder and her parents, who she credits for teaching her the value of philanthropy. It is a group of more than 104 clinicians, clinician-scientists and basic scientists who are impacting and changing the lives of people suffering from chronic diseases, including sepsis, MRSA, cystic fibrosis, type-1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For more information on the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, please visit us at or follow us on Twitter @SnyderInstitute.