Quinn Santoro, Rachael RobertsStudents Quinn Santoro and Rachael Roberts are serving internships in the Wine and Spirits Lab, which celebrated its official opening Friday.

Lab supports local vintner and distillery industries

People filled the Essex Centre of Research (CORe) atrium in celebration Friday, Feb. 10, as the Faculty of Science officially opened its Wine and Spirits Lab.

Housed in Essex Hall, the lab will provide laboratory analytical services to industry while creating authentic work-integrated experiences for students through on-campus internships.

“We are the only university in Ontario with such an opportunity for undergraduate students,” says Chris Houser, interim vice-president of research and innovation. “Students will develop the analytical and technology skillsets as a result of the work in the lab that will help them secure meaningful and impactful careers.”

Industry partners, media, and local dignitaries joined UWindsor staff, faculty, and students to tour the lab as part of the event hosted by the Faculty of Science and the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

"The wine and spirits lab provides our students a unique opportunity to build their analytical and transferable skills in direct partnership with our community,” says Dora Cavallo-Medved, acting dean of science.

“And it is through those partnerships that we will help to build future careers for our students right here in Windsor-Essex."

That lab is part of UWindsor’s Extension Science Program, created to expand and strengthen partnerships with local wineries, breweries, distilleries, and greenhouses to support economic growth and diversification in Windsor and Essex County.

Chemistry alumna Allison Christ (BSc 2011), the winemaker at Colio Estate Wines, values the partnership.

“The analytical analysis is very important to wine making, beer making and distilling, but the equipment is cost prohibitive to small producers, so we get to reap the benefit of the University doing the investment for us to really help us and that support is crucial,” she says.

Unlike traditional internships, in which students compete for a limited number of positions, UWindsor’s program is a scalable experience, with students receiving credit towards degree completion. The Wine and Spirits Lab will in turn drive innovative research projects between local industry and faculty at the University of Windsor.

Undergraduate science students Quinn Santoro and Rachael Roberts are the inaugural interns for the lab.

“I think it is giving me a lot more lab experience because during COVID a lot of lab work was brought online so I wasn’t able to get into the lab in person and use all the different equipment,” says Roberts. “This lab experience has now allowed me to train with the different equipment.”

Inspiration for the Extension Science grant came from conversations with local industry and a sector scan grant completed in partnership with Invest Windsor-Essex. UWindsor received a $750,000 provincial grant in 2019-20 to renovate the laboratory and purchase analytical equipment in support of the project.

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