High school students are competing for a spot in a national science competition in May, where the winner for Canada will go head to head against students from across the world.

In the past several weeks, teenagers in different parts of Canada have been pitching graduate-level projects competing in the Sanofi Biogenius Competition.

“It’s really inspiring to see all these kids really putting a lot of effort into this,” lead organizer Andrew Ross told CTV Kitchener.

Students punched well above their weight on Wednesday at the University of Waterloo, with health science research including antibiotic resistance, cancer therapy and Alzheimer’s.

In May, the regional winners, including the upcoming winner of southwestern Ontario, will go on to compete nationally in Toronto. The national winner will then compete internationally.

Ross explained that Waterloo is actually the eighth stop of the competition for 2019.

The University of British Columbia will be the last regional stop in Canada on Thursday. Other stops have included the University of Calgary, Dalhousie University, University of Manitoba and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Some of their topics ranged from photodynamic therapy (which uses light to treat cancer) to new drug delivery mechanisms.

Grade 11 student Ashok Pandey was thrilled to be standing shoulder to shoulder with other young researchers.


PAST WINNER WENT ON TO CREATE NEW NEUROIMAGING TECH

Organizers said they’ve been seeing more young women compete in recent years.

One of them included grade 11 student Hima Sheth, who learned calculus and how to code to help her develop a mathematical model for scientists to better understand epilepsy.

Sheth believes she has “a lot to live up” to as the 2018 international winner Sajeev Kohli went to the same Waterloo high school as her.

“It’s a little bit intimidating,” she said. “But Waterloo students have always done amazing,”

Last year, Kohli created a protein-based system to improve how doctors deliver therapeutic cancer treatments.

Ross explained that on top of their regular homework, students did most of their work outside of the classroom -- some even devoting months of their spare time to their presentations.

High school students have been competing in Sanofi’s annual competition since 1993, with the touring competition entering its 25th year.

Past winner Quebec’s Justin Lessard-Wajcer -- the 2015 international winner -- have gone on to create a successful real-life application.

His project lead to the creation of company CLARITY X, which developed his then-new technique that created highly-detailed pictures of the brain. His imaging method can potentially spot the precursors of Alzheimer’s earlier than existing imaging such as PET scans.