The Canadian Association for Girls in Science (CAGIS) is inspiring young girls across Canada to join science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Founded in 1992 by Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s own Dr. Evelyn Vingilis and her then nine-year-old daughter Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko, CAGIS’ impact reaches far beyond the local community.
Concerned by the fact that young girls had few opportunities to engage in activities around STEM, Dr. Vingilis formed CAGIS.
Volunteers host events in their own STEM workplaces and share experiences, from working with solar cars to collecting swamp water with microbiologists or coding websites. This gives the girls a behind-the-scenes look at science and technology – consisting of mini presentations introducing a STEM concept, followed by hands-on activities to consolidate the learning and make science fun. Through these events, young girls have been able to recognize that science is everywhere, which Dr. Vingilis says is one of the greatest parts.
“It’s a pleasure to see young girls wanting to be at these events, moving past stereotypes and engaging with the material,” Dr. Vingilis said.
The skills gained at CAGIS events often follow members throughout their lifetime, as many of them return as volunteers while pursuing higher education and working in STEM professions. And now, with chapters from Vancouver to London, CAGIS is continuing to expose young girls to STEM concepts, activities and professionals across Canada – helping stop the leaks in the pipeline that many academics equate to the lack of retention of women in STEM education and professions.
In addition to serving as Chief Financial Officer of CAGIS, Dr. Vingilis is also Treasurer of the London Arts Council, and a member of the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety and the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine. Both of which tie closely to her research on the effects of alcohol and medications on subsequent motor vehicle injuries among a representative sample of Canadians, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and driving, and street racing and stunt driving.
Working toward goals much broader than the local community, volunteering has been a natural addition to Dr. Vingilis’ work focused on improving the health and well-being of Canadians and individuals around the world.
“My whole approach to my research has been very interdisciplinary, people-oriented and applied, and that’s what volunteering is about – you’re working with people towards a common end goal,” said Dr. Vingilis.
Reflecting on the generosity of faculty, staff and students at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and overall at Western, Dr. Vingilis says that she has had the pleasure of working with great people that willingly offer their time and resources to give back to the community.
“The openness of the community here, particularly with CAGIS, has been wonderful,” said Dr. Vingilis.
“Although there is still a lot of work to be done worldwide, I’ve been thrilled and thank everyone for their commitment to the community.”