How some of Ukraine’s brightest minds are advancing Canadian innovation

The Outcome

Since 2009, Mitacs has matched more than 8,000 international students with Canadian academic institutions across the country. This year’s GRI cohort of Ukrainian students are involved in ground-breaking research in the fields of health and wellness, robotics, technology, and more

The Program

The Mitacs Globalink Research Internship (GRI) is a competitive opportunity for international students to participate in a 12-week research internship under the supervision of Canadian academic institution faculty members in a variety of academic disciplines

Mitacs is connecting top Ukrainian students looking to advance their academic careers with meaningful research opportunities in Canada

When Ukrainian university students Yana Hulak and Sofiia Shmyhovska applied for research internships in Canada during the fall of 2021, they were excited by the opportunity to work on a unique project aimed at strengthening social work collaboration between Canada and Ukraine. What they did not expect, however, was that the full-scale invasion of their homeland by Russia would have such a profound impact on their view of the world that they would choose to rethink the focus of their research.

Only two of over 60 undergraduate students from Ukraine participating in the 2022 Mitacs GRI program, Hulak and Shmyhovska aren’t the only students in the cohort whose research ambitions were significantly altered as a direct result of the life-changing experience of war.

Iryna Parkhomchuk, who was anticipating adventure during what would be her first trip abroad, arrived in Canada to complete her GRI experience at Ontario Tech University on the heels of being forced to hide in a bomb shelter while her city faced the invasion of Russian troops.

Sofiia Markova, a top veterinary student looking to solve the mystery behind Canada’s honeybee shortage, feared that she would not be able to safely depart her home country of Ukraine in time for the start of her 12-week research internship at the University of Saskatchewan.

What all of these students have in common is that they are all committed to using their unique experiences to make a difference in the lives of others by applying their leading-edge research and expertise to solve some of Canada’s, Ukraine’s, and indeed the world’s, most pressing challenges.

“When we arrived at the airport in Kamloops, it was like a ray of sunshine,” expressed Shmyhovska who is completing a GRI internship at the Thompson Rivers University where she is helping to create a first-of-its-kind interactive online map that directs Ukrainian newcomers to what they call “safe spaces” across Canada. “We were tired, we were hungry, we were cold, and then suddenly our whole perspective shifted. It made us realize how important it is to feel safe when you arrive in a new country for the first time.”

Advancing innovation in Canada, Ukraine, and beyond 

Over 2,000 students from more than 30 countries and regions, including Ukraine, are taking part in the Mitacs GRI program this summer to help solve complex problems across a range of industry sectors from health and wellness to robotics, technology, and the environment. Designed to foster international research collaboration as well as to boost Canada’s economy and innovation ecosystem, the 12-week internships are available at more than 70 academic institutions from coast to coast.

Since 2009, Mitacs has matched more than 8,000 senior undergraduates with Canadian faculty through its GRI program to promote Canada as a top destination for research opportunities and showcase Canadian research expertise around the world.

“Mitacs is very proud to be supporting more than 60 Ukrainian students through its Globalink Research Internship this year — part of our broader efforts to help those affected by the war. This highly important research will ultimately help people in Canada, in Ukraine, and beyond,” says Mitacs CEO John Hepburn. “The Mitacs Globalink Research Internship helps participants gain research experience here in Canada, advancing innovation and creating attractive opportunities for international students who often decide to further their education here.”

“Not only are internships an excellent way to recruit international students to our team, they also give us the opportunity to learn about other cultures,” says Patrick Hung, Professor in the Faculty of Business and IT at Ontario Tech University.

“At the same time, we’re helping to develop expertise among these students so that they can continue to build on that experience when they return home,” adds Elemir Simko, Professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Saskatchewan.

Ground-breaking research 

Some of the ground-breaking research currently being conducted by the 2022 GRI cohort from Ukraine includes:

  • A first-of-its-kind social robot that operates as a mental health aid to help people cope with stress and anxiety, starting with Ukrainians who are dealing with the impact and trauma related to the ongoing war. (Ontario Tech University, Oshawa)
  • A new community services asset map and reference list that will help Ukrainian newcomers to Canada find appropriate resources and social support, as well as strengthen collaboration between both countries to advance social work research and education. (Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops)
  • A study to determine why honeybee populations are declining on Canadian blueberry farms, leading to smaller crop yields, and what can be done to reverse the trend and keep pollinators healthy. (University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon)
  • The application of advanced genetics to better understand the influenza virus and the molecular properties that enable it to evade the natural immune system. (Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia)
  • A groundbreaking, wearable ‘soft’ robot that accurately measures hand and wrist motion to assist in clinical assessment and rehabilitation following surgical procedures. (University of Alberta, Edmonton)
  • A cutting-edge linguistics program designed to encourage people who are learning a second language to overcome their shyness, take risks speaking in common social settings, and build confidence and proficiency. (University of Ottawa, Ottawa)
  • The analysis of video clips of kids riding bikes to investigate what it’s like to be a kid on a bike in today’s highly regulated world, and how that experience is influencing their ability to develop independence. (Brock University, St. Catharines)

Mitacs’s programs receive funding from valued partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us to foster innovation and economic growth throughout the country. 

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities:

Mitacs Team
Mitacs Team

Mitacs’s website content is created by people throughout our organization, united in their passion for innovation and eager to share their perspectives with others in the innovation ecosystem.