SPARK students are a mixed bag but they have one thing in common – they like communicating.

Check out Janne’s latest blog about us!

Two SPARK students, Matt (left) and Bruce, work on making a video.

Readers of this blog have asked me what a typical SPARK student is like. Well, the nice thing is that there is no “typical”. SPARK writers can be Bachelor, Master or PhD students, and they can come from any of the degree programmes at the University of Guelph. Although much of the research (70 per cent, actually) going on at the university is about food, agriculture and the veterinary sciences, the students in the SPARK programme  do not necessarily have a farm background or even know much about farming.

What better way to get an idea of what the SPARK writers are like than to meet them? At present there are five students on the SPARK team. They are:


Matt McIntosh (at the left in the picture at top)

Matt is 21 years old and in the fourth year of a Bachelor of Political Science.

Matt comes from a farming community. He has been working for SPARK since September 2011. Even though he prefers to work outdoors, Matt thinks it is a really good job and places great value on the fact that the director, Owen Roberts, took time to talk with him about article structure, interview technique and how to contact the scientists.

He finds the work challenging and fun. He thinks it will be helpful to his future possibilities – at least as a life experience.

Bruce Sargent (at the right in the picture at top)

Bruce is 20 years old and in the third year of a four-year Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Marketing Management.

Bruce comes from a dairy farm which means that he understands farming and farmers. In addition to working for SPARK, and studying, he has his own business, Farm Boy Productions, which makes videos for the agro-industry. He was hired by SPARK mainly to make videos, but he also takes pictures and writes articles.

Bruce feels that he has learned a lot. SPARK has helped him to stand in front of the camera, to speak clearly, and to write good texts. Through his work for SPARK he has developed contacts that he can use in his own business and it has strengthened his professionalism.

Nicole Yada

Nicole is 24 years old and in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Marketing.

She applied to SPARK because she thought it would be interesting to be in contact with all the areas of research at Guelph. She likes talking with the various scientists and likes to communicate research results. She feels that the border area between research and the general public is exciting.

Nicole says that SPARK has given her the opportunity of coming in contact with many different areas other than her own and it has sharpened her interest in popular science communication.

She has applied for master studies in communication with a focus on public health. After her Master degree she would like to study medicine or work for Health Canada communicating health issues to the public.

She thinks it is really good that students communicate about research because they can communicate in language that is easy to understand for people who do not have a research background.

Joey Sabljic

Joey is 21 years old and in his fourth year in Bachelor of Arts with English literature as a major. Joey expects to graduate in April 2012.

Joey would like to work with journalism or communication but if he does not find a job right away after graduation he will work for SPARK full time this summer. He has worked for SPARK for three years (since he was 18 years) and is now a senior writer, training, mentoring and editing new SPARK writers.

Joey feels he has picked up a lot of journalistic skills and knowledge from SPARK. In addition, he has built up a good portfolio of published articles. He finds he has been given a cornucopia of possibilities and contacts in the world of journalism.

Samantha Beattie

Samantha will turn 22 years on 16 March 2012 and is in the third year of a four-year Bachelor of Arts with a major in International Development. She hopes to do a master in journalism.

From SPARK she has gained an understanding of how to write journalistically, how to produce videos, including editing and camera technique, interview technique and the editing process (of own and other’s articles).

Life after SPARK and university

What happens to SPARK writers after they graduate? Quite a few of them go into journalism, communication, marketing, PR or education – many of them doing so in the food and agricultural sector. Check out what SPARK alumni are doing here.


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