Two Canadian teen scientists compete at BIO2012 international biotech competition

At the 2012 International BioGENEius Challenge, held in Boston, Canada was well represented with projects from teen scientists Janelle Tam, a 16-year-old from Waterloo Collegiate Institute, and Rui Song, a 16-year-old from Walter Murray Collegiate, in Saskatoon.

Rui went on to place third in the competition for her research on more nourishing lentils, an important global food source and one of Saskatchewan’s main crops.

The competition was for high school students who through science research projects show above-average understanding of biotechnology. Winners of the competition were announced at the keynote luncheon at the 2012 Bio International Convention.

Rui placed third for her research on lentils. Her mentors, Dr. Kirstin Bett and Rob Stonehouse of the Plant Sciences Department at the University of Saskatchewan said her work raises the hope of developing a new, more nutritious variety of lentil.

“As a participant since 2008, my SBCC experience has definitely changed my life,” said Rui. “Not only did I receive a glimpse in the research process, I gained a new perspective on career opportunities in the biotechnology sector. My experience has shaped my future career path and motivated me to change the world for the better through research.”

Janelle took first place at the national 2012 Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada in May, by demonstrating that cellulose is also a potent anti-oxidant disease-fighting compound. Her mentor was Dr. Zhaoling Yao from the University of Waterloo. Janelle’s research could potentially improve health and anti-aging products, including tablets, bandages or cosmetic cream.

“In research, I get to discover what no one has found out before, which is really exciting,” said Janelle. “I think this opens up a whole new field for NCC, and I’m thrilled that the scientific community believes in the potential of my research into tree particles as an eco-friendly alternative.”

To enter the Boston International BioGENEius Challenge, Rui and Janelle participated in the 2012 Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge in Canada.

“The Sanofi Group in Canada is thrilled to see that the potential of Canadian youth is being recognized at an international level,” said Mark Lievonen, president of Sanofi Pasteur Canada. “As the founding sponsor of the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada (SBCC) 19 years ago, we believe in the potential of our youth to develop the next big breakthrough in science. I am increasingly optimistic about Canada’s opportunity to truly make a difference in the world.”

For the past 19 years, the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge has given over 4,000 teen scientists access to university labs and academic mentors, promoting Canada’s biotech industry. This year, over 240 high school and CEGEP students from all over the country submitted 192 projects ranging from exploring prospective new drug treatments for Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis to crops and the environment.

To learn more about Rui’s project, visit Janelle’s research can be found online at

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