This blog is a collaborative effort between the Foundation for Student Science and Technology (formerly the Canadian Young Scientist Journal) and Science.gc.ca. Our aim is to offer an interactive platform where Canadian students can talk about their passions, challenges and ideas on how to further pursue scientific interests and education. We welcome new contributors -- if you are interested please contact us at information@science.gc.ca.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stem Cells – Ethics Collides with Science

Originally Published: December 18, 2013
By Daphnée Dubouchet-Olsheski

Stems cells are specials cells found in (humans and) animals. Stem cells are the precursors of all cells in the human body. They have the ability to replicate themselves and to repair and replace damaged tissue in the human body. There are two types of stem cells. Adult stem cells are found in specific tissues in the body, and become cells that are needed in these tissues. Embryonic stem cells are cells found in the umbilical cord of the embryo.  These cells can become whatever cell they want (triggered by the activation of specific genes). (Viegas, Jennifer. Stem Cell Research). These stem cells are what can change the world! If harvested, we could grow thousands of organs and limbs to cure people. However, there are many challenges in stem cell research, one of which is the ethical argument. Should the embryo have the same moral status as a human person?

On the other hand, adult stem cell research is relatively uncontroversial.
Different religions around the world have stated their position on the use of embryonic stem cells. Most cultures have also expressed their views and opinions on stem cell research in hopes to have their values respected.

Countries have also taken positions on the practice of such research. Canada, for example, believes that stem cell research is an innovative idea that could possibly help millions of people and has developed a set of guidelines that doctors/scientists must obey in order to practice stem cell research.

Despite these differing world views on this scientific discovery, I believe that stem cell research is an important part of our scientific world and can possibly save many lives. Stem cells have given the world a glimpse into the future; a future free of disease, a future with cures and a future filled with hope.

Stem cells will be able to cure anything, from missing teeth to spinal cord injuries. Stem cells can also be used in heart attack victims. Muscle stem cells are injected into the damaged artery within 5 hours of the attack and start repairing the damaged heart muscle!
The discovery of stem cells was a world phenomenon bringing hope to finding cures for diseases that plague the world.  Progress is being made every day. One day we will see a world, if not free of disease, at least less burdened by disease because we can generate healthy body tissue… if only we could bridge the divide between ethics and science.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Education must meet current realities

Originally Published: October 21, 2013
By Ankita Saxena

With the still relatively shaky economy, it’s become commonplace to mock study of the arts. Often considered a waste of time (“The only thing my parents think is worse than an arts degree is a MRS degree!”) and mocked as a ticket to unemployment, the arts and humanities have taken a beating. At the same time, STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) has become a major buzz term in the past years. Articles extolling the virtues of STEM, implicitly  (a focus on the high base salaries of engineers) or explicitly (editorials lamenting the dearth of students in the sciences) have become a mainstay.

This is not an issue in of itself. It is difficult to deny that STEM, as a general phenomenon, has played a role in many positive developments, from the minutiae of people’s lives to larger economic booms.

The issue comes about when misinformed students base their perception of an extremely broad group of fields on their experiences in high school science classes. Budding scientists are pushed away by what appears to be a dreary life of rote work, while those who may be better off in other fields stick with it. Given the rather ‘focused’ nature of many university programs in Canada, which provide little room for exploration, such a move can be costly and time consuming.

Students are not at fault here: we tend to generalize and assess on what we know. Instead, the issue lies with the current model of education. School science work is neither interesting nor representative of what happens ‘on the ground’.

Biology, in most classrooms involves the memorization of a litany of facts. Molecular biology has it in abundance: mitosis, meiosis, the dreaded cell respiration, with its 6 and 3 and 2 carbons and of course, photosynthesis. Human systems, the other cornerstone of most classes is worse. Fill in the blank diagrams reign supreme and there are numerous anatomical features and processes to cram. Add in a few easily ‘repeatable’ labs and you have the typical introductory high school biology class.
What similarity does this pile of busywork bear with actual scientific research, or even work at a pharmaceutical company or hospital? That’s not to say we should entirely ignore this important essential information – a doctor who doesn’t know anatomy is not much of a physician, but what is stopping us from adding more inquiry or application based labs and activities? Achieving success on a timed test, often multiple choice, is typically the final focus of many classes. What is often overlooked is that said test is truly a ‘false obstacle’. It is primarily imposed during secondary and early university education or general artificial learning environments, not in the workplace. Evaluations are standard, sure, but they assess one’s ability to do a job, or in other words: solve a problem or meet a need.

Thus, instead of having students do a tonne of outlining and subsequent assessment, why not have them do an inquiry based project on a related topic that forces students to look for and examine alternative sources and ultimately write a report? With the internet, there are a variety of free resources available. If one wants to relate biology, to say…computing, one can find a software that traces the evolutionary history of a gene, or attempts to model protein-protein interactions. Not only does this make the class far more interesting, but it also helps students to build skills that are generally useful. It also has the benefit of flexibility: advanced students can use class time to explore further, instead of simply being told “we’re not covering that”.

This would, of course, have to be followed up by commensurate changes in assessment. It is likely impossible to get rid of standardized tests as a whole and indeed, they can play a beneficial role in combating inflation. However, standardized tests can be made more ‘competencies’ or ‘skills’ based – the emphasis will be on applying knowledge and being able to think critically over pure content. Though it may sound difficult, the Collegeboard, a United States based organization responsible for administering the Advanced Placement (high school courses for university credit) exams recently reformed their Advanced Placement Biology curriculum so it better reflected the skills needed for studying biology.

Changes were made after consulting with university professors and the required content (which used to be most of a thousand page textbook) was cut and more written questions added. Though students did noticeably worse, with the percentage of “Extremely well qualified scores” dropping significantly, there was almost universal agreement by experts that the new exam was a superior assessment. And while this post happens to focus primarily on biology, a similar approach can be and indeed, has successfully been incorporated in other fields as well.

Furthermore, opportunities for students to experiment and explore industries by  interning or working in a structured program should also be promoted. Even if the job doesn’t turn out to be a good fit, an individual will still have a better idea about what fits for them and what does not. While such programs do exist (Heritage Youth Research Summer Program from Alberta Innovates, the McMaster 6 week research summer program) they are rare and mostly centered around academic institutions. Exposure to the realities of the workplace may also prove to be influential in changing attitudes to other non science courses- after a week onsite, it will be difficult for a future engineer to call English ‘useless’

Ultimately, if Canada is going to produce the crucial STEM workers and better situated citizens as whole (a population which includes arts graduates!) attitudes towards science education and perhaps teaching as a whole, will have to change. Content can be picked up when the time calls for it, but essential skills are harder to teach.

Friday, September 6, 2013

My Science Story

Originally Published: September 6, 2013
By Manasa Kaniselvan.

The book QED by Richard Feynman is a fascinating read. In fact, it was the book that first got my interested in science. Why? Because I was nine, and this book explained Quantum Electrodynamics without the use of a single equation. It was a heavily simplified version, of course, and it still used the general concept of vectors, but my nine-year-old self felt very proud of being able to understand it.

There was something enthralling about being able to comprehend the things that were happening on such fundamental scales, and my younger self was drawn in. Of course, physics past basic kinematics isn’t generally taught at the middle-school, so I delved into popular physics books that continued to explain these concepts in ways understandable to the layman, and studied math to be able to understand the basics of the equations needed. I never got very far as a nine-year-old, but it was the enthusiasm and the inspiration that really counted.

Since then, I’ve had a voracious love of learning science. Along with the science courses I took in school and the science books at the library, I discovered the world of online courses and the practice of being an autodidact, in which I learned as much as I could without the presence of an organized syllabus. I was fascinated by brilliant scientists in the past and young inventors alike, and decided that I would study engineering to find ways to apply the knowledge I learned. But I suppose that book is what first inspired me to explore science.

Science and its Overall Effect on our Lives

Originally Published: September 6, 2013
By William Nguyen

For a large part of recorded history, science had little bearing on people’s everyday lives. However, with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, this rapidly changed. Today, science has a profound effect on the way we live, largely through technology and innovation.

Some forms of technology have become so well established that it is easy to forget the great scientific achievements that they represent. The refrigerator, for example, owes its existence to the discovery that liquids take in energy when they evaporate, a phenomenon known as latent heat. The principle of latent heat was first exploited in a practical way in 1876, and the refrigerator has played a major role in maintaining public health ever since. The first automobile, dating from the 1880s, made use of many advances in physics and engineering, including reliable ways of generating high-voltage sparks, while the first computers emerged in the 1940s from the simultaneous advances in electronics and mathematics.

Other fields of science also play an important role in the products we utilize or consume every day. Research in food technology has created new ways of preserving and flavoring what we eat. Research in industrial chemistry has created a vast range of plastics and other synthetic materials, which have thousands of residential, commercial, industrial uses. Synthetic materials are easily formed into complex shapes used to make machine, electrical, and automotive parts, scientific and industrial instruments, and countless other items. At the same time improvements regarding new applications and efficiency are continuously being made.

Alongside these achievements, science has also brought about technology that help save human lives. The kidney dialysis machine enables many people to survive kidney diseases that would once have proved fatal, and artificial valves allow sufferers of coronary heart disease to return to active living. Biochemical research is responsible for the antibiotics and vaccinations that protect us from infectious diseases, and for a wide range of other drugs used to combat specific health problems. As a result, the majority of people on the planet now live longer and healthier lives than ever before.

However, scientific discoveries can also have a negative impact in human affairs. Over the last hundred years, some of the technological advances that make life easier or more enjoyable have proved to have unwanted and often unexpected long-term effects. Industrial and agricultural chemicals pollute the global environment, even in places as remote as Antarctica, and city air is contaminated by toxic gases from vehicle exhausts. The increasing pace of innovation means that products become rapidly obsolete, adding to a rising tide of waste. Most significantly of all, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas releases into the atmosphere carbon dioxide and other substances known as greenhouse gases. These gases have altered the composition of the entire atmosphere, inducing global warming and the prospect of major climate change in years to come.

Additionally, science raises complex ethical questions. This is particularly true in the fields of biology and medicine. Research involving genetic engineering, cloning, and in vitro fertilization gives scientists the unprecedented power to bring about new life, or to devise new forms of living things. At the other extreme, science can also generate technology that is deliberately designed to harm or to kill. The fruits of this research include chemical and biological warfare, and also nuclear weapons, by far the most destructive weapons that the world has ever known.

As our world continues to develop and science research continues its steady climb, further technological advances will inevitably be made. Even as we look back upon our society it is unbelievable how far we have come as a people. Today, youth of all ages have become increasingly interested in the sciences and with the creation of organizations such as the Google Science Fair and CYSJ itself, youth now have numerous mediums in which they can express their ideas and gratitude to the world. We have seen amazing innovations created by these young minds as well as their outcomes. There is no doubt that children today are brighter than ever and science will continue to improve and affect our lives.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Rant on High School Science Education

Originally Published: March 28, 2013
By Howard Feng
Imagine a clash of two forces and you’re in the middle. Each side tugs on your arm and doesn’t let go – each side feels it knows what’s right for you, yet ironically, you feel oppressed, similar to Offred’s situation in Gilead. In the end, you choose the “lesser of two evils” and side with the one that offers you that one gleam of light into your future.
Yes, I’m the one stuck in the centre, and the two opposing factions are science from my high school curriculum and science from my lab experience at a children’s hospital in Toronto. The juxtaposition of two seemingly-similar (though upon further scrutiny, I came to realize “seemingly” was the difference maker) academic environments revealed the flaws and sometimes, hypocrisy, of the high school science education system.
In grades 9 and 10, I became exposed to a broad overview of science – that’s it, though, just “exposed”. My grade 10 science class touched briefly on how proteins are made, and that was because I mentioned it in one of my presentations. When I began elaborating, my teacher cut me off; as always, she said, “You’re all going to learn this in grade 12,” and ended my explanation. The funny thing is, I already learned this in grade 9 in order to understand the experiments I was performing in the lab. It wasn’t hard to grasp, yet our high schools seem to push all this off until the last year of high school – the last year before … university. And teachers complain that students procrastinate?
Finally, in grade 11, I began studying “focussed” sciences: chemistry, physics, and biology (had I not fast-tracked physics, I wouldn’t have had the chance to take it). For the first few months of chemistry, I was learning the basics again. All that information on atoms, covalent bonds, balancing equations, etc. was being repeated. How difficult is it to have students start these lessons in grade 9? These fundamental chemistry, biology, and physics concepts are being repeated in grades 9 through 12. If we started specializing at the beginning of high school, our grasp on theory would excel that of twelfth graders right now. Think of the potential International Science Olympiad students we would have. Pushing these subjects until the last two years or maybe the last year of high school does has negative repercussions, in that it hinders students’ abilities to expand their knowledge and curiosity in the sciences. If I were not performing science research in a lab at the same time, I would be like many classmates right now, thinking, “Why’d I take this? It’s not like I’m going to use this when I grow up,” especially in a paradigm that concentrates of practice rather than intellect. Actually, one of my lab mates, who’s currently on international exchange from Germany told me how the German education system allows students to pursue a specific scientific field from seventh grade. No wonder all my textbooks are scattered with German names, from Alder to Einstein to Oppenheimer to Siemens.
Deviating away from just the theoretical side of science, I also see a gap between experiments performed in high schools and research being conducted by university students. In fact, it’s quite frightening how much the difficulty notches up in just three or four years after high school graduation. I can pinpoint this scare to the lack of lab experience in high school. Labs are those treats mothers give to their behaving 5-year-old children – rare, but so sweet. Unfortunately, there is no specific laboratory course and many schools lack the equipment to perform practical experiments. If it wasn’t for my whopping $3000 International Baccalaureate school tuition, I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to use a spectrophotometer or look into a microscope (mind you, I did this all in a research lab for free)! When the best labs come in the form of slicing a frog in half with Dollarama scissors, it’s pretty clear that our high school science curriculum does lag in comparison to the rate of scientific growth.
I’d like my two worlds to walk hand in hand. My time in school should complement my advancements in the lab. When the universe is greater than we can know, we cannot restrict ourselves by reiterating the same material year after year and miss out on the empirical side of science. Ultimately, I propose reform, not revolution. A reform in the current high school science curriculum by eliminating general science education and concentrating specifically on biology, chemistry, and physics. By adding in mandatory lab requirements and maybe even adding a course called “Laboratory” (yes, I do recognize these past two fragments; I’m a scientist, not Shakespeare). We then can start bridging this gap between our students and the real world. Who knows? This might all be for my own selfish reason to vicariously be an International Biology, Physics, and Chemistry Olympiad winner, as well as a gold medal science fair finisher, after missing out on those experiences due to this lack of science focus in school. Then again, I don’t know why anyone would want to pass on these opportunities if they were given. Maybe reform really is the answer.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Science Story (video)

Originally Published: March 16, 2013

By: Abeera Shahid

Click here to see video blog: My Science Story by Abeera Shahid

Monday, February 18, 2013


Originally Published: February 18, 2013
By: Ankita Saxena
What does it mean to be innovative? Who best exemplifies an innovative person?
If you are like many people in the world, the term might make you think of large tech companies- Apple, Facebook, Google and consequently, their famous founders- Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It’s not hard to see why- we all probably use their products at minimum, once a day.
However, while we focus on these (undoubtedly) incredible men, we forget some of the biggest innovators and thinkers of all human history- the scientists. For some reason or the other, scientists tend to get lumped into two general categories: the Frankenstein mad-scientist who is planning on unleashing insane robots on humanity or the stuffy academic archetype. Having worked with some of these incredible people and closely reviewing others’ work, I can safely say that nothing could be further from the truth.
The past greats: Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Albert Einstein, Watson and Crick, Frederick Griffith, Hershey and Chase made incredible strides for science and humanity at large by using relatively crude tools to design elegant experiments that proved critical concepts. Transformation- the genetic uptake of exogenous DNA, which is used by millions of people yearly was discovered when Griffith heat killed a dangerous strain of pneumococcal bacteria (Pneumonia III-S) and administered the compound with II-R strain to mice that later passed away. Now, normally, II-R was inert as it lacked a polysaccharide coating that inhibited it’s discovery from the immune system; however, in these conditions, it took up the DNA of III-S which happened to code for the protective coating that allowed it to survive and kill the mouse. Later, Griffith could isolate both strains of live bacteria from the dead mice.
Obviously, not every scientist can become a Griffith or Einstein. At the same time, it’s exactly this type of innovative thinking which continues to drive all fields of science forward. In 1994, Dr. Polly Matzinger published a paper that proposed a brand new model for the immune system. This new model, dubbed the “Danger hypothesis” proposes that antigen presenting cells respond to danger signals from cells undergoing injury, stress or a difficult cell death. While her theory is not completely accepted, many parts of it have become key to modern immunological theory. Interestingly, Matzinger gestated these ideas not from doing lab work, but by studying various topics, including chaos theory that she thought might be relevant.
More recently, and especially at my home institution (the University of Calgary), a few scientists have been making use of improved microscopic tools to live image physiological functions such as the innate immune response, which is responsible for various disorders including sepsis. Others have decided to go beyond the image itself and instead, closely examine the components of the image itself and its relationship with the specimen in question. For instance, could a change in the emission spectra of an object reflect increased presence of other compounds that are linked to disease progression?
Ultimately, innovation itself can be quite easily defined; by Webster’s definition it simply means “a new idea, method or product”. However, it is important for us not to restrict or too closely associate the word with a specific sector or field and ignore its role in academic research and other areas. While a white-coated scientist in a lab may not appeal to the heart as much as images of starving artists collaborating in a rundown garage, creativity and flexibility of thought are instrumental to success anywhere and indeed, exist everywhere. Just imagine trying to live life without the almighty GPS, X-Rays and even antibiotics- I doubt you will get very far!

Skin Stem Cells

Originally Published: February 18, 2013
Defining Relationships Between Skin Stem Cells: An Unresolved Question in Skin Regeneration.
By: Sarthak Sinha
Skin is the largest organ in the human body serving as a first line of defense from external pathogens. Hair follicles and the distinct compartments within the skin are continually being repopulated and this regenerative capacity is now believed to be a result of two prominent stem cell populations residing along the hair shaft. Recent work from Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto discovered a novel population of dermal precursors (commonly abbreviated as SKPs) residing at the base of hair follicles in two distinct compartments, dermal sheath and papilla. These surprising discoveries have raised many questions in the rapidly evolving field of stem cells as we get closer in our chase to uncovering the mechanisms allowing hair and skin to exhibit such robust regenerative capacity.
In ninth grade, I remember reading a review article which highlighted one of the fundamental questions yet to be answered in this field was ʻRelationship between SKPs and other skin stem cellsʼ. It was the same year I joined Dr. Biernaskieʼs laboratory at the University of Calgary to be part of a team of researchers at the forefront of skin regeneration. I’m now attempting to answer this very same and promising question of regenerative medicine where my project is focused on uncovering the mechanisms that allow these two populations of skin stem cells to be able to communicate with one another. Uncovering the mechanisms and organelles responsible for this communication, we are now translating the findings into designing drug targets with sound rationale to make the clinical translation of cell replacement therapies a viable option following chronic and severe skin trauma.
Injuries to the skin in the forms of skin burn or chronic wounding rob an individual’s ability to sense touch, sweat and often results in poor recovery following skin grafting. The new hope of being able to use these dermal precursors as a source of autologous stem cells for transplantations following such injury offers new promise towards a superior attempt at reconstructing the first layer of defense in the operation theaters worldwide. Additionally, the commercial benefits of my research include fast and efficient hair regeneration to be used in conjugation with chemotherapy or for cosmetics industry.

2012 Best Young Scientist Paper Awards

Originally Published: February 18, 2013
Here are the 2012 Best Young Scientist Paper Awards in partnership with the NRC Research Press:
In Neuroscience and Psychology: Adelina Cozma, Bayview Secondary School, Richmond Hill, Ontario for “Novel learning in the brain”.
In this research, Adelina Cozma aims to examine how the brain acquires, learns, and overtly expresses new words in a foreign language relative to familiar, native-language words, and how new words are neurophysiologically absorbed after a short period of augmentative software training Adelina aimed to determine the spatio-temporal dynamics of the cognitive mechanisms involved in language acquisition using MEG and MRI techniques, and used three pieces of software to correlate her findings with the results of augmentative training.  This research reveals important new insights into the nature of foreign language processing; further work could prove instrumental to unraveling the mysteries associated with foreign language acquisition
In Mathematics: Anunay Kulshrestha, Delhi Public School, Dwarka New Delhi, India for “On the Hamming Distance between base-n representations of whole numbers”.
The Hamming distance is an expression of the difference between the original version of a message and the received message. It can be used either to correct an error found within a message, or to determine if a given piece of information has too many errors to be useful. In this paper, Kulshrestha derives a novel approach for calculating the Hamming distance between two consecutive whole numbers in any base. He proves that the Hamming distance between a number m and m-1 in base n is P + 1, where P is the exponent of the highest power of n contained m. From this formula, Kulshrestha also develops a method for calculating the sum of all such Hamming distances up to any given number in base n.
In Information Technologies: Nick Johnston, Semiahmoo Secondary School, Surrey, British Columbia for “Computer-aided telepathic communications”,
A fascinating, totally novel idea that creates a concept of non-Voice over IP communication. Nichlas Johnston’s experiment focused on EEG as a means of detecting brain patterns related to speech.  He was able to identify EEG patens of phonemes (and, by extension, words) as they are thought of by an individual.  These strings of phonemes could then be either transmitted to some future receiver or interpreted via a speech-to-text server and text-messaged via the Internet. This would enable those who cannot speak to successfully utilize the Internet as well as possibly change the speed of end user to end user communication.
In Environmental Science:  Adam Kaplon, Morristown High School, NJ, USA for “Transformation of Pseudomonas putida plasmids to transfer hydrocarbon degrading properties”
P. putida bacterium can degrade all hydrocarbons and, by extension, be a solution for oil spills.  However, this bacterium doesn’t occur naturally everywhere; often times, introducing a new organism into an ecosystem can generate further problems.  For this reason, it would be very useful to transfer the oil-cleaning properties of P. putida into other bacteria.  This is precisely what Adam Kaplon examines in his research.  After isolating the plasmid DNA (which is responsible for these properties) of P. putida Adam inserted into host strains through bacterial transformation in the hopes that these strains would assume biodegrading properties, thereby allowing a local bacterium to restore an ecosystem instead of a foreign species. The results indicate that further studies might prove highly useful to the scientific world.
In Physics: Sarah Battat, The Study School, Westmount, Quebec for “Polarization: Ray Ray Go Away”
The material that polarize a light beam are called a polarizers. Sarah Battat has carried out high level experiments with ferrofluid and an MRF as polarizers. Through the use of a magnet, their suspended iron particles were manipulated to lie in direction that was filtering orientation of light that the experimenter has chosen. In her experiments, Sarah tested the effectiveness of ferrofluids and MRFs when used as polarizers by varying the strength of the magnetic field and varying the orientation of the laser light. The outcome of this research by Sarah Battat was an evaluation of the ability of certain types of ferromagnetic substances to polarize light.
In Life Sciences: Jenny Xue, Moira Secondary School, Belleville, ON for “Does Light at Night Boost Appetite? A Study on Mice”
Obesity has become one of our society’s main burdens. Activity levels are just one class of factors that play a great part in one’s appetite, which directly correlates with one’s weight. Jenny Xue’s study reveals that, in mice, light at night (LAN) increases appetite by disturbing sleep and increasing overall activity level.  This research could prove useful to future studies concerning humans and, by extension, to eliminating the prevalence of obesity in our society.
In Biology:  Howard Feng, Ryan Murchie, and Aleixo Muise, Bayview Secondary School, Richmond Hill, Ontario, for “Identification of ezrin as a colonic substrate for protein tyrosine phosphatase sigma”,
Inflammatory bowel diseases are conditions that plague many people. Protein tyrosine phosphatase sigma (PTPσ) is one of many receptor-type proteins responsible for the varied functions of the cell.  It was inverstigated by Howard Feng, Ryan Murchie, and Aleixo Muise. Firstly, they carried out a thorough analysis of a variety of assays, seeing if ezrin may bind to the domains of PTP-sigma in vitro.  That done, they confirmed that the domain may directly dephosphorylate ezrin, thus providing strong evidence for ezrin’s role as a colonic substrate of PTP-sigma.

Future Neurosurgeon Extols the Virtues of Scientific Research and the CYSJ (JSST)

Originally Published: February 18, 2013

By: Adelina Cozma

For the past five years I volunteered as a teacher assistant in special education classrooms. My experiences built on my kindness, compassion and sensitivity to autistic children’s feelings, and led to an increased sense of social responsibility. Noticing the students’ difficulties interacting with their environment served as inspiration for my journey into scientific research.

Each year since seventh grade I initiated and conducted neuroscience research studies at the Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Toronto and York University, published the findings in journals and presented the projects as a Team Canada or Ontario member at international and national competitions and conferences. I designed and carried out innovative experimental paradigms using the latest developments in neuroimaging and augmentative communication technology to address language acquisition and representation in the brain and to develop and implement software programs that currently serve as teaching strategies for educators and learning tools for students with autism. These activities enriched me with valuable leadership, problem-solving, time management, flexibility, teamwork, communication and technological skills.

Participating in science fairs has been both challenging and rewarding. Working on a science fair project calls for commitment: there are several steps involved which require a significant amount of time, effort and support from the home, school and community environments. Nevertheless, the hard work is definitely worthwhile. In my opinion, the benefits go way beyond the scientific concepts learned through the research. I not only gained top international awards and recognitions but more meaningfully had opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment. Research taught me that things in life do not always happen as planned, and moreover, I learned to be open to change, to persevere, to seek the best in everything, and to help others along the way.

My desire to raise awareness about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities to students got me involved with the Canadian Young Scientist Journal. As Editor and Ambassador Program Manager, I enhanced literacy and public speaking skills to promote the journal at high school events and to review and select international research manuscripts for publication. These experiences challenged me to familiarize myself with current research in various domains, and to improve my critical analysis and proofreading skills to make meaningful edits.

Throughout my life, I desire to be a visionary leader whose personality, interests, life experiences and motivation to make positive contributions through helping others, will serve as foundational aspects for continued scientific research and volunteering initiatives.