WISEST participant Jennaye Bellerose, from St. Albert, was pleasantly surprised when she discovered her research project had to do with orthodontics.
Edmonton—A summer program that gives girls summer experience working in leading-edge research labs at the University of Alberta has opened students’ eyes to new possibilities.
In all, 60 young women took part in the WISEST program operated by the U of A’s Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology. Of those, 17 spent their summer working in Faculty of Engineering research labs.
Jennaye Bellerose, from St. Albert, was pleasantly surprised when she discovered her research project had to do with orthodontics. Working in mechanical engineering professor Jason Carey’s lab, Bellerose assisted in research on how dental braces become disfigured as adjustments are made.
“It was funny when they told me I was going to be doing work on braces,” said Bellerose, who wears dental braces. “I have an appointment with the orthodontist at the end of the month and I’m going to tell him all about this.”
Specifically, Bellerose was trying to find a way for researchers to consistently mount dental braces on metal dowlings, exploring different epoxies and placement methods. In the process, she designed a frame that would hold a brace—and she had the frame manufactured on a 3-D printer.
“I didn’t even know 3-D printers existed,” said Bellerose, who as clearly impressed with the technology.
Danvy Tran travelled from Calgary to take part in the WISEST program and worked with Suzanne Kresta, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. Her summer was spent trying to find better ways to analyze water droplets mixed in bitumen.
She describes the experience as “amazing.”
“In high school labs you almost know the results before you do an experiment,” she said. “But here, you’re not sure what the results will be.”
Tran said she liked the challenge of conducting research partly because, for better or worse, the unexpected happens. Researchers, she discovered, have to deal with unforeseen events like finicky equipment or a computer program that isn’t working the way they’d hoped it would.
“There was a lot of troubleshooting, which I found really interesting,” Tran said.
She also experienced the challenges that come with being away from home and living in a student residence. Tran said that without parental supervision, she found herself accountable for every aspect of her life.
“You take a lot for granted living at home,” she said. “This was a real growing experience.”
In the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Gabriella Peter worked on a biomedical engineering project with professor Samr Adeeb. The project is aimed at coming up with standardized sizes for implants to replace the talus bone in the ankle.
Peter said that the team used CT scans of the talus bone in 28 patients and founds small variations in typical sizes. Then, using 3-D imaging software, she essentially made models of bone implants.
“When I registered for WISEST I said that I was interested in engineering and in medicine, so this was a great match,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect but I went in with an open mind and learned that engineering is a varied field and there are lots of options.”