Following the highly anticipated and powerfully inspirational Laureate Lectures on Thursday, October 27, 104 students eagerly headed to lunch with current and past Canada Gairdner Awards laureates. Hosted by the Gairdner Foundation, this annual Student Networking Lunch brought together high school, undergraduate and doctoral students along with trainees through our partners at the University of Toronto, York University, Lotus STEMM, Let’s Talk Science, Visions of Science and the Knowledge Society.
This lunch was a rare and rewarding opportunity for students, including our high school correspondent Parmin Sedigh (read about her experience about Gairdner Science Week here) to have empowering conversations with a Gairdner Award recipient at their table. The students were joined by all of the 2022 laureates, Drs. John E. Dick, Stuart H. Orkin, Pieter Cullis, Zulfiqar Bhutta, Drew Weissman, Deborah J. Cook, and Katalin Karikó; as well as our past laureates, Drs. Mina Bissell, Elaine Fuchs, Roel Nusse, Guy Rouleau, Daniel J. Drucker and Rodolphe Barrangou. A winner of the Early Career Investigator competition, Prof. Anna Blakney, also joined the lunch to chat with and mentor students.
The MaRS atrium, where the lunch took place, was buzzing with chatter and eyes were lit up in excitement and curiosity. “I loved having one-on-one conversations with a laureate and being able to ask specific career and research related questions,” writes an attendee. “The execution was incredible and I loved how informal, yet insightful, the conversations were.”
Gairdner laureates took the time to provide career and scientific advice and mentorship, and answer the many questions the students had for them, whether it be about their life or their work. They left quite an impression on the students, who commented on “how humble and honest our laureate was!”. It was such an invigorating and engaging session that it was hard for our laureates, students and trainees to say goodbye at the end of lunch.
Some stayed behind to continue networking with fellow attendees while some of the high school and undergraduate students continued their day with a tour of the University of Toronto campus and their various labs at MaRS. All around, the lunch was a success, cultivating our partnerships doing incredibly important work in our communities, inspiring students of all ages and backgrounds and deepening their passion and interest in science.
Thank you to our partners for helping us make the lunch happen and all the students who came with such enthusiasm and who will undoubtedly be the future of scientific research and innovation. We are also grateful to the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and the talented illustrator Armin Mortazavi, who developed our comics, animated videos and educational materials about our laureates’ work and research that were provided to help equip the attendees of our Student Networking Lunch.