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Faculty of Science's Fall Term Update on courses, labs, tutorials, exams, research and fieldwork

Zooming in on Lab Work for Students

Jennifer Williams Jennifer Williams is a Ph.D. candidate in the Vascular Dynamics Lab with the Department of Kinesiology. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jennifer switched from her previous human research to begin running experiments in a cell model, working with Gianni Parise and his students Michael Kamal and Mai Wageh.

"With the pandemic restricting access to labs for our undergraduate students, I’ve been hosting virtual sessions to show students lab procedures and also how research happens – all the excitement of new results and the challenges of running experiments.

"I started using my computer to Zoom students into the lab back in January. But I wasn't able to bring the students with me as I conducted experiments. My supervisor, Dr. Maureen MacDonald, suggested that I set up a harness to take the students with me through the lab.

"Students now get to join me on Zoom through a smartphone I wear in a harness. I also wear a Bluetooth headset so they can ask and answer questions while I'm working. We run sessions almost daily as I go through various cell culture procedures, including growing up the cells, treating them with various hormone conditions, running Western blots for protein analysis, and probing with immunofluorescent probes to look at intracellular metabolites. I also record the sessions for students who couldn’t join in and to develop training videos.

"I initially ran the sessions for undergraduate students in my lab but the opportunity has now grown to include students from other programs who are interested in seeing what research looks like. The virtual medium makes it very accessible for students to drop in and everyone gets an unobstructed view. Students who would have never otherwise had an opportunity this term to see the inner workings of a research lab now have a chance to see and be a part of this experience. Hopefully, these sessions are getting students excited and prepared for going into a lab and doing hands-on research in the near future."

Student Receives Bank of Canada Scholarship

The Mathematics & Statistics student will receive a $10,000 scholarship and will work as a Summer Research Assistant in the Bank of Canada's Currency Department.

"I have been interested in working at the Bank of Canada for a while and was browsing their careers section when I came across the scholarship application," says Katrina. "It seemed perfectly aligned with my interests and goals, so I just went for it."

Katrina is one of 13 university students receiving scholarships from the Bank of Canada. The scholarships are designed to encourage Canadians from diverse backgrounds to further their education and consider employment in fields related to the work of the Bank of Canada.

"This award is a huge honour," says Katrina. "It truly is a result of the experiences and support I have had from McMaster and elsewhere. It means a lot to receive an award that recognizes the importance of diversity in the workplace and encourages women to be ambitious. I am more motivated than ever to continue pursuing my academic and professional goals."

Science Student Turns Cardiac Cycle Into a Parody Song

Leila Somani DavisScience Students Have (Musical) Talent: There are some songs that get stuck in your head. That's what second-year student Leila Somani-Davis was hoping for as prepared for her Biology mid-term on the same day she'd write her Organic Chemistry mid-term. To remember the key concepts behind the cardiac cycle, Leila picked up her guitar and recorded a parody song. "I wrote a ton of song parodies back in high school as my creative component for various assignments so the cardiac cycle parody didn't take long to write. And then it was just a matter of figuring out the chords for the song and recording myself singing and playing guitar." Give a listen to Leila's Biology 2A03 midterm hit single.

Making Science Accessible for Everyone on Social Media

Science for everyone Instagram posts

A team of Faculty of Science students and recent graduates aims to be a trusted source for easily understood science information on social media.

Connor MacLean and Kayla BenjaminFormer McMaster Science Society President and Integrated Science graduate Connor MacLean co-founded Science for Everyone in September 2020 with Kayla Benjamin, his best friend from high school and an Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences graduate from Western Ontario.

The team has grown with students and graduates from McMaster and other universities, including Harvard, Waterloo, McGill, Guelph and the University of Toronto. They create easily accessible and shareable Instagram posts based on what they’re seeing on social media and in the news and what they're hearing from family and friends.

“We created Science for Everyone to advance science literacy, tackle misinformation and build trust in the scientific method through accessible education, inclusive engagement and by providing resources for learning,” says Connor. It’s been estimated that only four in 10 Canadians demonstrate a basic level of science literacy.

The Science for Everyone Instagram account features posts on topics ranging from COVID-19 to climate change and science literacy. In January alone, the team created 15 posts to address specific questions and misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.

The team has plans to make Science for Everyone a registered non-profit that runs high school and university science literacy workshops, interviews scientists and expands its reach to other social media platforms.

McMaster Team Members:
Connor MacLean - Honours Integrated Science 2019
Sam Marchetti - Honours Integrated Science 2020
Chimira Andres - Honours Integrated Science 2018
Cassandra Masschelein - Honours Integrated Science 2018
Lilian Diaz - Honours Chemical Biology 2019
Sheryl Nguyen - Honours Chemical Biology 2020
Negar Asli - Honours Chemical Biology 2022 (Expected)
Nicole Wong - Honours Chemical Biology 2022 (Expected)
Nagashree Thovinakere - Honours Life Sciences 2019
Eric Shingleton-Smith - Honours Biology 2020
Max Manglal-Lan - Honours Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour 2019

Students Showcase Scientists on Their Radio Show

Kian Yousefi Kousha on his radio show

Kian Yousefi Kousha is a third-year Neuroscience student who co-hosts the SciSection radio show with Sherry Chen every Wednesday at 6 p.m. on CHFMU 93.3 FM.

“My family immigrated to Canada in 2017. As a newcomer, I faced the usual challenges of adapting to a new home, building a future in a new country and overcoming language barriers. I always had a passion to pursue journalism but coming to Canada put that dream on hold. I doubted I could become a journalist with English as my second language.

"During my second year at McMaster in 2019, I got the opportunity to have my own radio show on CFMU 93.3 FM with the help of my friend Sherry Chen. We named our show SciSection and it is all about changing the general public’s perceptions of the sciences. It’s now one of the top three most listened to shows on CFMU.

"In the first few months of the show, we interviewed McMaster professors to ask them about their personal journeys about becoming scientists. We also asked about the challenges they faced as students. It is easy to be fascinated by success without knowing all the challenges scientists have overcome along the way. Hearing renowned scientists from across Canada talk about their personal challenges can definitely inspire students to follow their own dreams and accept that every success story has its ups and downs.

"SciSection has grown into a student-run organization with close to 30 members. We have expanded our team of journalists to almost 10 universities across Canada and California. We have been honoured to welcome guests including Gregg Semenza (the 2019 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine/Physiology), Feridun Hamdullahpur (President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Waterloo), Santa Ono (President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of British Columbia) and David Shukman (BBC’s first science editor).

"Our team is working on initiatives, events and collaborations to further our goal of connecting people to science. Our main event this year was the Canadian Undergraduate Research Competition that was judged by six scientists and physicians from Calgary, Waterloo, Vancouver and Toronto. We also started a website called Humans and Science which has transcripts of our radio interviews.

"It has been three years since I immigrated to Canada. I have not yet mastered English as my second language but I’ve managed to prove to myself that I can still give back to my community and pursue my dream in a different language in a different place that I now call home. Launching SciSection has been the best decision of my life.”

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