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International student exchanges critical for scientific research: Mark Lautens in the Globe and Mail

(Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

Foreign exchange students play a critical role in Canada’s scientific research community – and every effort should be made to help them safely enter Canada and contribute to its universities.

That’s according to Mark Lautens, a University Professor in the department of chemistry in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science. In a Globe and Mail op-ed, Lautens writes that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven home the value of in-person laboratory work, as well as the important contributions made by foreign students.

While lab work was initially halted during the early days of the pandemic, Lautens says the students he has since welcomed from abroad “are showing what they are made of” by adapting to strict quarantine requirements, physical distancing and other public health guidelines. “Unlike what some may imagine of student exchange visits, they agreed to visit knowing they could not do a grand tour of Canada before or after their exchange. No trips to Banff and the Rockies. No weekend fun and games,” Lautens writes, noting that his students’ daily routines are generally limited to lab work and staying in their apartments.

“Yet they are smiling. Ear-to-ear smiling. One requested to extend her stay as she is enjoying the research so much.”

Lautens says the young researchers – usually graduate students – bring skills that complement those that exist in his lab, resulting in “a win-win for them and my group members.”

Read the op-ed in the Globe and Mail