Of all the things Michael Veltri could have imagined himself accomplishing during his studies at the University of Lethbridge, there’s one that wouldn’t have likely made his ‘to-do’ list.

My co-op work terms gave me confidence in my abilities to perform science and has impacted my future in ways beyond what I was ever expecting.

Meet Michael | Perseverant. Detail-oriented. Observer.
Program: Bachelor of Science | Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Ardrossan, AB

Last year the neuroscience student participated in a co-op work opportunity with the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, one of four he’s taken part in. In the process, he became the first person at ULethbridge ever to study metabolite data from plant material via 1H NMR spectroscopy.

“Being the first person to work with plant material, even though all the procedures were already established, you don’t know what you’re going to find,” says Michael of the research he did at the Magnetic Resonance Centre under Tony Montina. “I never thought that I’d go to university and be able to say I was the first person to do something in the school, so that was a major highlight for me.”

There’s a scarcity of sweetgrass throughout North America, and he was investigating what is present in healthy sweetgrass, which could be used to help determine ways to supplement the growing environment to establish healthy and abundant wild populations.

Michael says the co-op provided him with a better appreciation for biochemistry, something he didn’t have a lot of experience in, and he’d like to do further research in that field.

“It broke down a lot of barriers and answered a lot of questions that I don't think I would have ever learned in a classroom, or even in a laboratory component,” he says of the opportunity.

Michael’s co-op work terms have been split equally between ULethbridge and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The research, which ranged from investigating the most common fungal pathogens for cereal grains to collecting and identifying tick species, all had a positive impact on his future.

“I gained a better understanding of working science and what to expect as a graduate, two master's opportunities and strong references and connections across various industries,” says Michael.

He enrolled at ULethbridge because of its strong undergraduate neuroscience program and says there are a number of professors who have had an important influence on his experience.

Dr. Bryson Brown's philosophy of science class was impactful to me, as it gave me multiple perspectives of epistemology behind the act and meaning of science,” says Michael.

Others include Dr. Gerlinde Metz of the Department of Neuroscience/Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, Lukas Neamtu and Chelsea Le Francois from the Career Bridge office and Tony Montina and Vince Weiler from the Magnetic Resonance Centre.

Michael is a shining example of how innovative thinking, cultural awareness and community-mindedness can be beneficial, not only when furthering scientific research, but also in building healthy communities both locally and globally,” says Le Francois.

Michael’s plan for the future is to continue performing research, grow into a clinical researcher and hopefully transition into a role that allows him to work with individuals to develop recovery plans.

As for advice for students just beginning their journey at ULethbriudge, he suggests they get involved in all areas of interest as early as possible, don't get discouraged with roadblocks and exhaust all options as a student to optimize those years.