Bringing research knowledge to South America: a success story
Angela Alberga and Zach Feraro, two PhD candidates under the supervision of Dean Dr. Denis Prud’homme, have returned from Brazil, where they fostered relationships with students and faculty in the Universidade Estadual de Maringá (UEM) that will strengthen the possibility for collaboration between international universities in the growing field of multimedia research in the prevention and treatment of obesity.
Upon their arrival in Maringá, Paraná, Brazil, Angela and Zach were welcomed with open arms at the Universidade Estadual de Maringá (UEM) by several students under the direction in the department of physical education. Professor Nelson Nardo Jr. had invited the obesity research duo as keynote speakers after meeting them at an international conference hosted by the University of Ottawa.
During their stay, they taught a series of six four-hour lectures to an audience of more than 100 students, faculty, staff, physicians and community members. Zach, who is co-supervised by Dr. Kristi Adamo at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), elaborated on topics concerning weight management during pregnancy and the effects it has on the developing child. Angela, who is co-supervised by Dr. Glen Kenny, professor in the School of Human Kinetics, and Dr. Ron Sigal, an endocrinologist based in Calgary, spoke about the childhood obesity epidemic and discussed novel approaches to increase physical activity and improve the health of children and adolescents struggling with weight problems.
Overall, their course, The prevention and treatment of pediatric obesity: tackling the epidemic throughout the life course, received outstanding reviews from all the participants.
“It was clear that the audience was engaged given the breadth of questions and the level of interaction during the sessions,” says Zach.
With the assistance of a bilingual interpreter, Angela and Zach also led a complimentary English immersion course for Portuguese-speaking students; the aim was to improve the communication of scientific material to the lay public and to improve students’ confidence in their ability to convey knowledge in English.
Being part of the Let’s Talk Science Program at the University of Ottawa, Angela and Zach were also involved with youth outreach at the UEM ‘CAP (colegio de aplicacao pedagogica),’ an elementary school affiliated with the Universidade Estadual de Maringá. They conducted a workshop on heart form and function at rest and during exercise.
“Fellow students and faculty at UEM observing the activities were so impressed by the knowledge translation initiative that they’re now thinking about creating a similar program with Let’s Talk Science for their university students in Maringá, Brazil, to increase science literacy in children,” says Angela.
Overall, Angela and Zach’s trip to Brazil was an enriching cultural experience and teaching opportunity that transcended differences in language to foster academic advancement. It also enabled the two doctoral students to become more effective communicators themselves and to sharpen their knowledge-transfer abilities as future researchers.
“This was a very encouraging and humbling experience that we will hold in our hearts forever,” add Angela and Zach.
Future collaborative activities between UEM and the University of Ottawa are already in the planning stages.