Science fair junkie: Nunavut woman selected as 1st Inuk ambassador for Canada-wide science fair

Mary-Lou Angidlik has loved science fairs since she was 13 years old. Now, she's an ambassador for the largest youth science competition in Canada.

'They’re very interested in Nunavut. It makes me feel special here,' says Mary-Lou Angidlik

Mary-Lou Angidlik (center top) is the first Inuk ambassador for the Canada-wide science fair. (Submitted by Kaylee Hayko)

Mary-Lou Angidlik studied Arctic plant medicine at the age of 13. She won a $500 agriculture award for it.   

Then in Grade 10, she spearheaded a science project on diabetes in Nunavut, titled: "Diabetes: A Northern Study of a Silent Killer."

So it's fitting that this year, at the age of 23, she was selected as the first Inuk ambassador to the Canada-Wide Science Fair — the largest youth science competition in the country held in Regina.

The 2017 ambassadors for Canada-wide science fair are: Issa Ammari from Quebec, Mary-Lou Angidlik from Nunavut, Hannah Boone from Newfoundland, Madelaine Lazurko from Saskatchewan, Danie O'Neil from Ontario, Ryan Wang from Manitoba and Manel Zeghal from Ontario. (Canada-Wide Science Fair)

"When they introduced me to everyone in the exhibit hall… it was scary at first," said Angidlik, who started her duties this week.

"They're very interested in Nunavut. It makes me feel special here."

Angidlik, originally from Rankin Inlet, lives in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. 

"We were super ecstatic have her apply because we rarely, if ever, get applications from people from [the North]," said Julia McDevitt, director of the fair.

'I think I nailed it'

The Canada-Wide Science Fair selects only a handful of youth across Canada to help facilitate the fair. Ambassadors are expected to "motivate, inspire and keep connected" with the youth participants, building a sense of community, said McDevitt. Successful applicants have their travel, accommodation and meals covered during the week of the fair.

"[Angidlik] said when she came here, she was a shy person, kind of an introvert... a little nervous about coming on the team," said McDevitt.

This week, Angidlik facilitated a few workshop sessions for students. "She came up to me and said, 'I think I nailed that. This is really bringing me out of my shell.'"

Ambassadors will help facilitate the Canada-Wide science fair this year in Regina. (Submitted by Mary-Lou Angidlik)

​Angidlik says her love for science fairs was sparked in Grade 7, when her science teacher worked with her to submit a project for the Canada-Wide Science Fair in 2007. She participated again in 2011. 

She encourages other youth interested in science to apply to be an ambassador.

"The team is really awesome."

Angidlik is currently completing a social work program at Nunavut Arctic College, and will be using her experience as an ambassador for her practicum.

With files from Toby Otak