Donnelly Centre 2017 Youth Science Outreach

This year, our visitors included grade 8 students, from the Father Serra primary school, who spent a day at the Centre learning about cells, tissues and living beings. Starting with baker's yeast, we explained how this simple organism—which consists of only one cell—can teach us a lot about human cells. This is because both humans and yeasts evolved from the same ancestral cell that lived 100 million years ago which makes our cells  broadly similar to yeast cells. Moving on to tissues, our visitors saw stem cells growing in a dish and learned how, with clever tricks, these cells can be coaxed to become, say, eye or heart tissue which scientists hope to one day use as replacement body parts to treat injury and disease. Finally, tiny worms crawling in a dish served as an example of a multicellular animal — and one that scientists in the Donnelly Centre and around the world use as a research tool to figure out how genes work.

Later in the year, our friends from the Dragon Academy high school came for seminars on muscle repair and microfluidics.

dragon academy students and teachers with members of the Wheeler lab who demonstrated their microfluidics device that had been used to detect infectios disease in rural Africa (Lisa Ngo).


Science should be for everyone, regardless of gender or background, and we are thrilled to have had the opporunity to welcome students from the Canadian Association for Girls in Science and the Visions of Science Network Learning and look forwad to having more events together.

In April, it was time for the annual Bring Our Children to Work (BOCW) day, open to children in grades 4-7 of U of T employees. The organizer Christine Misquitta and Donnelly Centre graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who acted as demonstrators talked about ongoing research at the Centre, showed the kids how to extract their own DNA and tickled their brains by asking them to decipher a message written in the DNA code.

BOCW participants extracting their own DNA from cheek cells (Christine Misquitta).


In May, we took our experiments outside for ScienceRendezvous, the annual nation-wide celebration of science. At U of T, the event takes place along St. George Street which becomes packed with booths from diverse U of T departments and its research hospitals. To mark the 150th anniversary of Canada, the goal was to highlight how Canadian science and its scientists made their mark on the world. Our booth featured, among others, an experiment that measures how much sugar there is in various foods and drinks to help raise a better understanding of how to keep heathy and stave off diabetes which is only treatable thanks to the discovery of insulin, made at U of T almost a century ago.

Check out our timeline to learn how the Donnelly Centre traces its roots to the insulin discovery.

To learn more about how insulin was discovered, read this article by Michael Bliss at the Canadian Encyclopedia website.

passerbys taking part in science activities at the Donnelly Centre booth during Science Rendezvous


In the fall, instead of welcoming visitors at the centre, it was us who went on the road. We joined colleagues from SickKids and Mount Sinai for a mini science fair in the Lincoln M. Alexander secondary school in Mississauga organized by the school's science teacher and U of T alum Ms. Dao Tran. We brought yeasts, flies and fish larvae as examples of organisms that our scientists study in order to understand how cells work and break down during disease. Tahani Baakdah, our talented graduate student brought her needlework—yes needlework! Tahani crochets stem cells, neurons and brains to explain her research to kids!

"Thank you for your generosity in sharing the time, the passion for science, the knowledge and the resources. Conversations are more science-rich because of their interactions with you and your resources" - Ms. Dao Tran, science teacher at the  Lincoln M. Alexander secondary school

our props for a science fair in Lincoln M. Alexander secondary school.

For more outreach photos visit our Flickr gallery.

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