For the Lions Medical Research Foundation (LMRF), it’s not enough just to support cutting-edge medical research. We also want to encourage tomorrow’s top scientists through our involvement with SPARQ-ed. But what is it, how exactly is the LMRF involved, and what can YOU do to help inspire Australia’s next generation of scientists?
The SPARQ-ed Initiative
The “SPARQ” part of SPARQ-ed stands for Students Performing Academic Research – Queensland. It is a collaboration between the Department of Education and The University of Queensland to provide pupils in Years 10-12 with unique educational experiences that will hopefully lead them to further studies and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.
SPARQ-ed is based at the Translational Research Institute (TRI) in Brisbane, which has a fully equipped biomedical teaching laboratory and learning centre.
The initiative offers professional development assistance for teachers, both live and virtual workshops for school groups, and five-day research-immersion programs for selected students from across the state.
Those lucky enough to be involved with the research-immersion programs will get to work on an experimental project related to a real-world problem, alongside TRI scientists with whom they can discuss their findings. They will not only gain invaluable experience in using a state-of-the-art lab, they’ll also learn how research is conducted and analysed at the highest level.
And, on top of everything else, the students in these programs will be assessed on two written tasks related to the project, and may receive an ATAR adjustment for entry into selected UQ degrees, giving them a further head start on a STEM career.
The LMRF’s Role
While the LMRF focuses on ground-breaking medical research, it is also well aware that to continue advancing the state of medical science, we as a society must keep training new scientists. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that not all students have the same access to educational opportunities, whether for reasons of cost, travel distance, or other obstacles.
This is where the LMRF comes in, financially supporting selected candidates from Years 10-12 to take part in SPARQ-ed research-immersion programs.
In 2020, for example, budding scientists from Toowoomba, Gatton, Peregian Springs, Dalby, and Rockhampton were all awarded support (with one student choosing to defer the assistance until 2021). They were active participants in exciting, rewarding projects concerning cloaking antibodies and also DNA repair.
How Can You Help?
The Lions Medical Research Foundation would love to help more young people take advantage of the fantastic initiative that is SPARQ-ed. However, as a not-for-profit organisation, we are reliant on fundraising activities and generous donations. The latter are tax deductible, so if you can afford to contribute to our efforts to back both cutting-edge research and the scientists of tomorrow, please do. Every donation is greatly appreciated.
And who knows? Five days in a top-class Brisbane facility, working as part of a real team, doing real research, may be what sets a future superstar on the path to making an incredible discovery or pioneering a new treatment.