Conestoga news

December 17, 2023 8:58 PM

Student researchers gain invaluable hands-on experience solving real-world issues

Conestoga students can take advantage of an “incredible experiential learning opportunity” while building their resume and earning a competitive paycheque by becoming a student researcher.

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Student researcher Yoonji (Grace) Kim applied the knowledge she learned in the classroom to her work in the Conestoga Food Research & Innovation Lab.

Research, Innovation & Entrepreneurship is the largest employer of students at Conestoga. In 2022-23, 206 students from 45 different academic programs were hired.

Student researchers are involved in every part of the research including hands-on work, joining meetings, filing reports and communicating with industry partners. 

“They’re right there embedded in the whole project,” said Nicole Detlor, director of Conestoga's Food Research & Innovation Lab.

The opportunities are diverse and growing quickly.

Since applied research began at Conestoga in about 2010, the college has hired more than 4,000 students and helped expose them to industry and community partners, often leading to job offers. A wide range of research areas is available, aligning with almost every academic school and program.

Benefits of working as a student researcher include: competitively paid positions with flexible co-op and part-time opportunities, starting a career while still in school, applying knowledge to real-world challenges, building a resume with relevant work experience, working and networking with local businesses and community organizations, gaining in-demand skills and expertise in a chosen field, and access to cutting-edge technology.

A big part of the learning is interpreting data and communicating it in a meaningful way - an invaluable skill to work on as students prepare for the workforce. “They have to take something that’s fairly complex and make it useful information for industry partners,” Detlor said.

Students are hired based on their particular skills that are suited to the projects.

“We do try to play to the student’s strengths,” Detlor said.

Student researcher Yoonji (Grace) Kim greatly appreciated the opportunity to apply the knowledge she learned in the classroom of Conestoga’s Packaging Engineering Technician program.

“It was a very dynamic learning experience for me,” said Kim, who worked in the Conestoga Food Research & Innovation Lab on the Cambridge - Fountain Street campus.

Kim worked on real-world products to come up with new approaches for a client, such as streamlining the packaging process or extending shelf-life. “We provide solutions to meet their needs.”

As Somya Arora readies to graduate from the Applied Research graduate certificate program, she is grateful for the skills and techniques learned as a student researcher in the food industry that can be carried into a career. Arora was a bit nervous at first, but soon was put at ease when she realized all the support available, and she would definitely recommend students consider applying to join Conestoga’s research endeavours.

“It was a good experience,” Arora said.

The arrangement benefits both student learners and industry partners that come to Conestoga looking for expertise to tackle a pressing issue, Detlor said. She stressed that the impact the students have on the college’s industry partners can’t be understated.

Conestoga ranked as one of the Top 20 research colleges in Canada in 2023, engaging with close to 80 industry and community partners, starting 85 new projects and hiring 190 students.

Conestoga’s Office of Research Services is the central hub for research partnerships among industry and community partners, faculty and students. The office offers comprehensive support throughout the entire research project lifecycle to ensure successful project outcomes by bringing together multidisciplinary expertise, state-of-the-art resources, and collaboration to tackle real-world challenges and address the needs of industry.