Indigenous students experience science and engineering research


From May 15 to 19, UBC will host 30 grade 11 Indigenous students from across Canada to its Vancouver campus for one week to experience the thrill of exploratory research first-hand as part of the Verna J. Kirkness (VJK) Science and Engineering Program.


“The purpose of the VJK Education Foundation is to encourage more Aboriginal students to pursue careers in science and engineering,” says Dr. Verna Kirkness. “As our people seek to be self-sufficient, it is important that expertise in these fields is available in the community. Elders participate in the program providing cultural grounding in science to help the students understand how important science has always been to our people.”


The one-week program held at three Canadian universities — The University of Manitoba, The University of Saskatchewan and the University of British Columbia — provides an opportunity for high-school students to conduct research alongside professors and seasoned graduate students. At the end of the week, the students present on their week’s research and learning.    


Alexandra Hunter from Merritt, BC, wrote in her application, “I believe that Aboriginal education is very important, as it helps ensure that indigenous cultures will thrive.  I am part of the Ktunaxa First Nation in the south east Kootenays, and I do not know anyone from my band who has gone on to continue education in sciences past grade twelve;  that is why I have made it a goal of mine to go to some form of post secondary institution.”


The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation has partnered with The Faculties of Applied Science, Science and Forestry, The Centre for Drug Research and Development and the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute. <List of professors and graduate student mentors.>


Honour Feast for students

Thursday, May 18
6:00 - 9 pm
UBC Longhouse, Sty-Wet-Tan
Dr. Verna J. Kirkness, Honorary Chair of the Verna J. Kirkness Foundation, will present certificates of completion to each student.


Dr. Kirkness holds an honorary Doctor of Laws and is a distinguished alumna of the University of Manitoba, where she graduated with a Master of Education in 1980, after also completing her BA and BEd. She is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation, and a member of the Order of Canada. She is a national leader in education in Canada who has inspired countless students and educators in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.


Student Presentations

Thursday, May 19
1:00-3:00 pm
Room 2020
Fred Kaiser Building
2332 Main Mall
Students will present their research findings



Media are invited to attend the student presentations and Honour Feast, as well as to visit the laboratories where Dr. Kirkness will be talking with the indigenous students and their faculty mentors (May 17-18).

Note:  All students participating in the program have signed media release forms.


For additional information and complete schedule please visit



Clare Kiernan
UBC Faculty of Applied Science


Ron Woznow
Chair, Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation