Both my husband and I work in science-related fields.  He works in the nuclear energy industry and I am a science teacher.  All three of my boys love science and all three have excelled or are excelling at the high school level.  My oldest son is now studying Environmental Science at Guelph University.  I received a science degree from Brock University in Environmental Science.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree sometimes. He has decided to major in ecology which was my passion.

My middle son is now in the process of deciding where he want to go and the program best suited for him.  It took a great deal of searching university calendars and attending guest presentations from universities at his high school but he finally found something that piqued his interest.  My middle son is a gifted individual – psychological testing in grade 5 placed him in the 99th percentile in terms of cognitive ability.  Our school board only identifies those students who place in the 98th percentile or above as gifted.  Now, it didn’t amount to much in terms of extra attention at school.  There were some perks for a while when budgeting allowed for a teacher of the gifted but budget cuts are happening everywhere and something’s gotta go.  He was able to attend Kingston, Ontario’s Queen’s University Enrichment Program in grades 7 and 8 which allowed him to take part in higher level courses at the University for a three-day span.  He also participated in enrichment programs at our local Trent University in those same years.  Jarod is an amazing student, achieving high marks in the maths and sciences but also in English and Construction technology (woodworking).  Even though academics comes quite naturally to him he works exceedingly hard putting in 2 or 3 hours or more in school work each evening as well as playing football and attending the weight room regularly.

Now what program, you must be asking, piqued the interest of this high achiever?  He will easily be accepted for every program he applies for – almost every program – as his grade 11 and 12 averages are in the mid 90’s.  The program he has set his heart on is the McMaster University isci program in Hamilton, Ontario.  It is an integrated science program which means his courses will come from all three strands of science – biology, physics and chemistry as well as math and psychology.  It is a program that emphasizes scientific literacy and research-oriented learning.  He will learn research skills and protocol from the ground up and be asked to work in a group setting.  The program is designed to turn out scientists who are able to look at a problem from multiple viewpoints.  For example, getting a manned mission to Mars involves more than developing the technology to fly there.  How will the group going to Mars have their life support maintained?  How will they be fed?  What types of psychological issues related to possibly never returning home, living in confined quarters etc will the crew and passengers face?  How will those issues be dealt with?  These and many other questions are inherent in a problem such as space travel.   

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. — Albert Einstein

This revolutionary program, only 5 years old, is designed to produce individuals up to this monumental task – individuals who can think outside of the box, work well in groups and are well versed in a number of scientific disciplines.

How do you gain entry to such a program?  You might think it would be based solely on marks.  If that were the case then Jarod would be a shoe-in.  His marks, especially in science and math are exceptional.  However, that is not the case for this program.  They do require students who have shown consistent good grades in high school.  An 85% average in grade 12, including at least 2 sciences, both Calculus and Functions and Relations, and English, gets you consideration for the program.  After that feat, which is not an easy one, you must fill out a questionnaire of 5 questions designed to, I imagine, weed out students who are not highly motivated and those with high marks who are perhaps not suited to a group work situation. Jarod submitted this on-line application today.  It was due tomorrow.  He has worked on this application for weeks and wanted to make sure it was just right – grammar, tone and enthusiasm.  They get about 400+ applications for this program.  They only accept 60.

“The hunger and thirst for knowledge, the keen delight in the chase, the good humored willingness to admit that the scent was false, the eager desire to get on with the work, the cheerful resolution to go back and begin again, the broad good sense, the unaffected modesty, the imperturbable temper, the gratitude for any little help that was given – all these will remain in my memory though I cannot paint them for others.” Frederic William Maitland

 The odds are not great, I suppose, if you are a betting person. I’m rooting for my kid as any parent would. Although an extremely high achiever, he does work well in groups – football and other sports activities have helped in that regard.  He has often had to work in groups completing lab reports and class presentations.  His experience in Honduras working for “Friends of Honduran Children” organization with his school shows a great social conscience also important in this program I believe.  All in all, he has a great shot I think but only time will tell.  He will find out in May whether he is a successful applicant.  He does have a plan B and C however.  So no matter what he will be attending university in the fall.  He is praying it will be at the McMaster University isci program!

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