KITE trainee named UHN STEM Pathways volunteer of the month

Kaylie Lau helps create activities for outreach events involving elementary and secondary students

Kaylie Lau has been involved in youth outreach for many years, so when the opportunity arose to become involved with the UHN STEM Pathways program she jumped at the chance.

UHN STEM Pathways is an outreach program designed to help instill in students a passion and love for STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics –  by introducing them to leaders who are already working in the field. The program is open to students in Grades 1 through 12 and offers interactive tours, scientist panels, hands-on workshops, classroom visits and other activities.                                     

Since becoming involved Lau, a KITE research trainee who works with a team in WinterLab under the supervision of KITE affiliate scientist Dr. Atena Roshan Fekr and emeritus scientist Dr. Geoff Fernie, has created STEM activities for outreach events geared toward both elementary and high school students. She's also involved in facilitating workshops and organizing classroom visits.

Lau’s contributions to the program have not gone unnoticed. In April, she was recognized as UHN STEM Pathways volunteer of the month.

"It's nice to be recognized for the work that I've been a part of,” says Lau, who is also a second-year Masters of Applied Science student at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

“This is further encouragement for me to continue being involved in the community, whether it’s with UHN STEM Pathways or other initiatives that are going on,” 

Lau says she enjoys connecting with youth as she believes they are the key to helping future generations solve science’s biggest problems. 

"Right now, we're facing some of the toughest scientific problems. And I think to tackle these complex issues, we must keep encouraging youth to consider STEM as a potential career path," she says.

But Lau finds the most significant challenge with youth outreach is representation and diversity in STEM, especially for marginalized communities.

"One of the main challenges with youth outreach is making sure that there's an equitable distribution of opportunities and resources,” says Lau. “We need to make sure that we target marginalized communities a bit more." 

Lau's advice for those wanting to help in youth outreach is to think about the impact you can have on those aspiring to be a part of STEM and prioritize diversity.

"We have to show students that there's a wide breadth of fields and occupations within STEM. It's crucial to be involved in workshops, school visits, or mentorship programs because then you can help expose students to all the different opportunities,” says Lau.

“Be involved because everybody brings something unique to the table. And we need to have a representation of everything."