Five Degrees

Five Degrees


Five science students. Five unique labs. One goal - to explore life, experimentation, and discovery through the eyes of budding scientists.

Fresh out of the lecture hall, and with varying degrees of exposure to hands-on science, these University of Guelph undergraduates tackle biological enigmas in their coveted positions as summer research interns. Along for the ride is documentary filmmaker and fellow student Melanie Wills, intent on capturing the essence of their experiences and their evolution as scientists.

Behind locked doors at a food safety facility we meet up with Sylvie, a bioscience major with a literary inclination who “grew up on the campus” under the wing of her microbiologist father. Scholar, politician, and athlete Derek works with plant taxonomy and cutting edge genetic research that takes him on a journey to the heart of the Peruvian jungle to retrieve samples for analysis. Back in Canada, and working in a “dry” lab at the university, vivacious Saneeka delves into the overshadowed field of science communication, subtly refining her understanding of what it means to be a scientist in today’s society. Then there’s trilingual intellectual, Gabriel, who commutes an hour to campus every day from his farm in a Mennonite community to investigate animal behaviour. And touring secluded wildlife research stations of Ontario is photographer and enthusiast “nature man Matt”, whose summer job is part of an ongoing study of turtles.

Together, their lives and experiences are the fabric of Five Degrees. In telling their stories, Wills adopts a holistic approach to present the science in the context of the people, their network of friends and family, and the community of peers, colleagues, teachers, and mentors surrounding them. The climate and culture in which these students exist is articulately conveyed by the people who train, counsel, teach, and have walked this path before them.

Five Degrees is an intimate glimpse of science and some of the personalities who practice it. It is the excitement, boredom, insight, uncertainty, idealism, adventure, and passion of being a blossoming adult, setting out on uncharted waters, and making a mark, however small, on the world. If researchers are the ones to question the nature of life and the physical universe, this documentary probes the nature of the scientists themselves.


© 2006 Melanie Wills