Aug. 29, 2023

UCalgary faculty integral to Grade 11 students’ research experience

24th High School Youth Researcher Summer Program celebrates student achievements at August open house
Hector MacIntyre, University of Calgary

Every summer, inquisitive Grade 11 students from central Alberta with a passion for research can be found across campus. The Alberta Innovates High School Youth Researcher Summer (HYRS) program, administered through the Research Services Office, is a six-week opportunity for exceptional students to gain first-hand experience with biomedical and health research and introduce them to research career opportunities.

Twenty-six students from high schools in Calgary, Cochrane, Red Deer, and Brooks conducted research projects under the mentorship of 22 UCalgary faculty, while also participating in campus lab tours and workshops. Projects focused on digital health, data-enabled health transformation and health innovation and technology acceleration.

2023 marked the end of the 24th year of the HYRS program, where students presented research posters during an open house event on Foothills Campus on Aug. 15 to over 100 people, including mentors, HYRS program alumni, and representatives from the legislative assembly and Alberta Innovates.

Andrea Li was a 2023 HYRS Student and stands in front of her poster at the open house event

Andrea Li conducted her HYRS research under the mentorship of Yuan Xu, assistant professor in the Cumming School of Medicine.

Hector MacIntyre, University of Calgary

Andrea Li, a student at Sir Winston Churchill High School in Calgary, investigated the performance of a popular large language model comparing with manual review in determining complete pathology responses from narrative electronic medical records. Li was under the mentorship of Dr. Yuan Xu, MD, PhD, assistant professor, departments of Oncology, Surgery, and Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).

"Throughout the program, I have gained numerous insightful and valuable research skills,” says Li. “I am beyond grateful to have been a part of Dr. Xu’s lab and have met inspiring and motivated friends along the way. Participating in the HYRS Program is truly the best way to spend a summer!"

Ruoxi Qu was a 2023 HYRS student stands infront of her poster

Ruoxi Qu conducted her HYRS project under the mentorship of Susan Kutz, professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

Hector MacIntyre, University of Calgary

Ruoxi Qu’s HYRS project under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Kutz, DVM, PhD, professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, studied pathogenic lungworms in muskoxen and understand how climate change is affecting the health of muskoxen.

“The HYRS program provided me with the opportunity to learn and explore beyond my classroom and allow me to further solidify my plans for the future under guidance and support from others,” says Qu, who is a student at Bow Valley High School in Cochrane.

Anson Ma-Phan lives in Innisfail and is a student at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School in Red Deer. Under the mentorship of Dr. Ranita Manocha, MD, clinical associate professor, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, CSM, they created modules for an interactive video-based mobile application to teach people how to go up and down stairs while using canes or crutches. These modules form part of the Improving Canadians' Walking Aid Skills, Fitting, Learning, and Knowledge (ICanWALK©) app.

"It was an extremely fun experience and I made so many friends, I would do it all over again if I could," says Ma-Phan.

Anson Ma-Phan a 2023 HYRS student stands in front of his poster

Anson Ma-Phan conducted his HYRS research under the supervision of Ranita Manocha, a clinical associate professor in the Cumming School of Medicine.

Hector MacIntyre, University of Calgary

The HYRS program at UCalgary is not possible without the support of its mentors. Being a HYRS mentor is an opportunity to inspire the next generation of researchers by sharing your experiences and knowledge. Commitment is one hour a week of direct mentorship to the HYRS student. Daily supervisors such as postdoctoral scholars, research associates and graduate students can be assigned in labs to support students with daily tasks. Daily supervisors can advance their leadership skills and further develop their communication, and management abilities.

"It's exciting to help students have a positive first research experience, and to show them how their curiosity can take them to new places," says Manocha.

“Guiding students through their first exploration of research and witnessing their wonder is truly exhilarating,” adds Xu.

If you are a UCalgary faculty member and are interested in being a future mentor for the HYRS program, contact

Yuan Xu is an assistant professor in the departments of Oncology, Surgery and Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). He is a member of the  Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at CSM.

Susan Kutz is a professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at CSM.

Ranita Manocha is a clinical associate professor in the Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the CSM. She is a member of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.