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Cybermentor connects young students with researchers.
courtesy Julia Millen

Young girls connect with science

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The University of Calgary launched a program that enables young women in science and engineering across Alberta to get involved with their field's future generation last week.

Cybermentor.ca is a web-based tool that introduces 11 to 18-year-old girls who have a zeal for science with post-secondary female researchers who have turned that passion into a career. It also gives young women access to information about the range of careers available in the sciences and engineering.

The program is meant to inspire and encourage them to continue with math and sciences.

"It gives the girls context," said program director Julia Millen. "They start to realize why they're studying science or math. They realize why it's important."

Students connect with their mentors over messaging services, web forums and blogs. As a result, the program is flexible enough for a busy student's schedule.

"It's fun as a mentor to see how your partner develops," said Millen.

Cybermentor operates in 70 communities across Alberta and targets girls in rural areas who may have limited exposure to information about science and engineering.

"It's likely that girls in the program now will be doing jobs we've never even dreamed of, or even that they never dreamed of," she said.

The program was launched Jan. 23 with a confetti cannon and a round of speed-mentoring. Although a few of the website's kinks are still being worked out, the program has been a success so far.

"They want to make a difference in the world," said Millen.

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