Written by Lindsay Day, MSc Candidate
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Saskatoon to participate in the 4th International Summer School for the Integrated Training Program in Infectious Diseases, Food Safety and Public Policy (ITraP). ITraP is an interdisciplinary NSERC-CREATE program based at the University of Saskatchewan, and is founded on a One Health approach that encourages collaboration across disciplines to address and improve the health of people, animals and the environment, recognizing that these are interconnected.
The week-long Summer School is the final course-based component of the training, following an online problem-based learning course and an online student-led seminar course that were held over the winter term and early summer. In addition, students enrolled in the program arrange and participate in a 2-4 month externship in industry, government or academia, during the course of their graduate studies.
The theme of this year’s ITraP Summer School was team science, and provided an excellent opportunity for us to learn about collaborative science in action. We enjoyed presentations from speakers from Canadian, American, Indian and Australian academic institutions, as well as from those in industry and government. It was great to learn about team science from people with such diverse expertise, working in different fields and capacities to address a range of pressing One Health issues. Interactive sessions were also an important part of the Summer School, and covered topics in risk assessment, management and communication; communicating with policy makers; the dynamics of team science; CV preparation; grant writing; and media training.
With a focus on experiential learning, a team competition was also held as part of the Summer School. Over the course of the week we formed and worked together in international, interdisciplinary teams of 3-6 students to develop a letter of intent to apply for a grant to address a One Health issue of our choosing. Teams presented their proposals to a panel of peers (students and faculty) at the end of the Summer School, with the top two placing teams receiving seed funding to assemble a full application. (Our team ended up being one of them!).
Overall, this action-packed week was a great experience and valuable learning opportunity. Perhaps most important of all, it provided a chance to meet, in-person, fellow students from the online components of the program. We are a diverse group, with students coming from Brazil, India, South Africa and across Canada to take part in the Summer School (unfortunately our colleagues in Germany were unable to join us). It’s been wonderful learning from everyone in the ITraP program, and these are connections I am sure we will maintain as we move forward in our academic careers and beyond.