Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Saskatchewan Polytechnic natural resource students enticed by cookies to annual applied research presentation leave with more than a sweet treat

Each fall, research chair David Halstead hosts an event aimed at recruiting students from Sask Polytech’s Natural Resource Technology (NRT) programs for applied research projects. He and colleague Leila Benmerrouche know what gets students out to events—they offer cookies and pop after class on a Friday. The presentation session, which has become known over the years as Cookie Day, is a way to spread the word among interested students about research opportunities and how to get involved. 

Student research is growing throughout Sask Polytech, and the School of Natural Resources and Built Environment (NRBE) is no exception. Ten students participated in summer field experiences this past year, with support from various funding agencies including Mitacs, NSERC, and SaskPolytech.  

Cookie Day is a casual but important event to help build student engagement in applied research. Instructors in the Integrated Resource Management (IRM), Resource and Environmental Law, and Geographic Information Science (GIS) programs spread the word to students, and those who are interested come out for an hour-long presentation. “We do it after class on a Friday,” explains Halstead, “because we know students who come at that time are the kind who are truly interested.” 

Halstead and Benmerrouche explain what applied research is and discuss funding available to students, then touch on the types of projects they have done and what technology they have access to. But the real highlight, other than the cookies, is the student researchers who Halstead and Benmerrouche bring along. These students or sometimes graduates who have worked with them in the past share their experience as student researchers, and it’s often hearing what they worked on and what it was like to work with researchers through the Office of Applied Research and Innovation that gets prospective student researchers excited. 

“Hearing about what’s possible made me want to apply for a student research opportunity,” says Amanda Ashdown, who worked on a Mitacs-funded applied research project with industry partner MEG Energy this past summer. Ashdown also had the opportunity to contribute to a lake sturgeon conservation project with Cenovus Energy, Inc. “I applied seeking field experience and specialized training. Through this work experience I have had the opportunity to fulfill both of those goals.” 

Leila herself joined Sask Polytech permanently as a research associate after graduating from NRBE’s IRM and GIS programs. As a student, she had the opportunity to participate in research doing a dragonfly nymph dichotomous key—a way to identify the species and genus of locally found dragonflies in their early life stage. “Participating in applied research as a student got me hooked,” says Benmerrouche. “I had a chance to put my learning into practice, and what a fun way to spend a summer.” 

Cookie Day for NRT students takes place at Sask Polytech Prince Albert campus this Friday, October 21 at 3 p.m. in Room 236.  

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Published Oct 2022.