Brock University observes Biological Sciences Day; Teens test out labs


High school students from across the Niagara region experienced a day in the life of a Brock University student last week.

As part of Brock’s Biological Sciences Day on Thursday, Dec. 8, more than 100 students and their science teachers visited campus to learn more about academic and experiential learning opportunities available at the University.

Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) aimed to inspire the next generation of wine growers and producers by providing insight into grape and wine science.

Grade 11 and 12 students from Thorold Secondary School joined CCOVI research staff to learn about the Oenology and Viticulture program (OEVI) in a two-part lab session.

In addition, students from Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School in Grimsby participated in labs focused on ecology and evolution, and students from Saint Paul Catholic High School in Niagara Falls delved into the world of DNA in molecular biology lab exercises.

The OEVI Tasting and Testing Lab focused on two components of grape and wine science — chemical and sensory analysis — in two of the University’s lab spaces in Inniskillin Hall.

In the ‘tasting’ portion of the lab, students performed blind taste tests on various samples of apple juice in the sensory evaluation lab. They were tasked with categorizing the juice samples in order from least sweet to most sweet using a special software called Compusense. The students then moved to the ‘testing’ portion of the lab, where they chemically analyzed the samples for sugar and acid levels.

The lab was designed to help students understand the difference between using their senses to detect sweetness and analytically measuring sugar. That is, depending upon how much acid is in a sample, the perceived sweetness might not have correlated to the concentration of sugar present and students may have ranked a sample with a higher sugar measurement as less sweet if it also had higher acid.

CCOVI Director and Professor of Biological Sciences Debbie Inglis was thrilled to have the opportunity to connect with students and give them a glimpse of the world of grape and wine science.

“It’s exciting to engage with the next generation through these sorts of experiential education initiatives,” she said. “We hope to help students learn more about grape and wine science and the breadth of career opportunities available within the field here at Brock.”

Thorold Secondary School chemistry and science teacher Leanne Travis said experiences like Brock’s Biological Sciences Day are valuable for high school students as they navigate the journey to post-secondary education.

“I believe experiencing a university setting is important for high school students as they prepare for post-secondary and make decisions about programs they are interested in pursuing,” she said. “With Brock’s Biological Sciences Day, our students experienced a university campus, including sitting in a lecture hall, actually performing science labs, eating in a residence dining hall and roaming the campus on a scavenger hunt. It was a valuable opportunity that gave our students a taste of university life as a science student.”