The Kings County Register: Computer science student from India working with Valley apples in Kings County

She had never seen an apple tree before or experienced temperatures as cold. 

Coming to Nova Scotia from south India in late May, Mitacs Globalink Exchange student Vinetha Jagadeesan had never been abroad before and, having not brought a jacket, found the temperatures downright frigid.

“I’ve never experienced that kind of cold before,” she said.

However, the 20-year-old computer sciences student quickly adjusted and the brief bout of temperature shock hasn’t affected her appreciation for Canada and the research experience she’s doing.

The experience has been quite different than working at home in India, where she simply works with data and doesn’t get to go into the field to collect it.

“This is a really big program and I’m really happy that I got selected,” Jagadeesan said. “It kind of gives me global exposure. I get to witness first hand how research is carried out. It’s a great experience for me.”

Taking part in the program helped her explore her independence and step outside her comfort zone, Jagadeesan said.

Jagadeesan is working with Sean Myles of Dalhousie University, Canada research chair in agricultural genetic diversity, and his team. They are working to identify and cross breed more than 1,000 varieties of apples. Jagadeesan is improving the lab’s data analysis capabilities by incorporating barcodes.

Every tree has its own barcode and the barcodes are applied to boxes of apples as they’re harvested, tested and measured. All the information is digitized and stored in a highly structured database. Apples are examined for size, weight, sweetness, flowering time, acidity and DNA.

This is Myles’s second year involved in the program – he worked with student from Vietnam last summer – and says the students from abroad enhance the culture of the lab.

“Young people who want to go and do science internationally coming to your lab are generally super highly motivated and the selection process is very stringent,” he said.

There were between 150 and 200 applicants for four Globalinks exchange positions from Jagadeesan’s home university in Chennai alone. Once selected, the students get to choose which available project he or she will be placed with. Myles said the Canadian government funds the exchange.

It isn’t a one-way street, though. Myles said this opens the door for students from other countries to potentially have research careers in Canada and vice versa. It also builds connections between universities internationally. Myles said these links are important to establish early in the careers of young research scientists.

“It ends up fueling a bit of bilateral collaboration between the two countries,” Myles said.

About Mitacs Globalink Exchange

  • It’s a competitive program for international undergraduates from Brazil, China, France, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Vietnam. It seeks to raise Canada’s profile on the international stage as a top research and innovation destination.
  • The program started in 2009 with 17 students from India as a way to build connections between Canada and top international research talent. It has since expanded to 750 students at more than 40 universities across Canada this year.
  • From May to September, top ranked applicants participate in a 12-week research internship under the supervision of Canadian university faculty members in a variety of academic disciplines.
  • Since its inception, students have participated in research projects on topics such as multimedia security, cancer detection, protein mutations, carbon capture and many more.
  • Alumni interested in returning to Canada for graduate studies are eligible for the Globalink Graduate Fellowship.

By: Kirk Starratt