My Journey of Becoming a Published Author in S.T.E.M and What I Learned

I am thrilled to say that after two years of work, my paper has been successfully published and I am first-author of a peer-reviewed academic paper, accepted for publication with minimal revision!

Over these past two years, I learned the ins and outs of proper experimental procedures, statistical analysis, and manuscript development, and now I can share tips from my own experience on how to publish in S.T.E.M.

From conducting an expansive literature review, designing and executing a full-factorial greenhouse trial, utilizing laboratory procedures to examine the growth and productivity metrics of my study species, learning how to use SPSS and R software to analyze my statistics, and ultimately publishing my manuscript, each step had its own challenges and rewards. Here, I break down the steps I took to help you organize your own research and guide you towards publishing your own academic paper.

Step 1: Choose Your Team

Publishing was one of the most challenging tasks I have undertaken to this date, but it would not have been possible if not for the strong team of scientists I had working on this with me. The unwavering support and assistance of my co-authors is what brought this paper together. For your first publication, I strongly suggest joining a lab from your university or collaborating with other individuals that have experience in the field you wish to publish in.

Step 2: Researching Your Topic

Prior to planning an experimental design, it is crucial to read the work of others on your chosen topic. Getting as much background information as possible will assist you with planning your study, getting an understanding of which metrics you should record, and learning about what previous studies have found. This assists with building the blueprints for your design.

Step 3: Plan and Execute Your Experimental Design

At this point, you need to have set a specific research question, created a design, and allotted specific deadlines and time budgets. In this article, I go in-depth on all of these points. This is where you need to collect as much data as possible. Remember, it is likely you will not use all of the data, but the more you collect the more options you have to work with when analyzing your statistics. When conducting your statistical analyses, ensure that you are comfortable with whichever software you will be using to analyze your work. Sites such as Youtube and offer a vast array of tutorials to help familiarize you with these software packages.

Step 4: Manuscript Preparation

When it comes to manuscripts, each journal has a specific style and guidelines you must adhere to. Research “instructions for authors” for multiple peer-reviewed journals and see what their criteria include. When choosing a journal, it is important to consider the impact factor, which is the number of times that a paper from the journal gets cited on average. Certain journals have incredibly high impact factors, but this in turn means that they have a lower acceptance rate which is another critical point to consider. After selecting a journal, follow their guidelines. They will have specific requirements that are important to adhere to in order to increase the likelihood of having your paper accepted for review. It is at this stage that you should choose the order of authorship on the paper, and who should be the first author of the paper. This order is typically established by order of contribution to the paper.

Step 5: The Editing Stage

This will probably be one of your longest and most challenging stages. My lab and I spent many months going back and forth on researching, writing, editing and then editing some more. There will be days when you spend hours researching just to write one sentence. There will be days when pages worth of work will be crossed out and you will have to start again (and again and again). Graphs and figures will have to be tweaked and possibly reworked. During the editing stage, the most important thing is to maintain perseverance and to take it a day at a time.

Step 6: The Submission Process

When your manuscript has been edited to the satisfaction of everyone on your team and is ready for submission to your journal of choice, there are several critical documents you must submit; your manuscript, a cover letter to the editorial committee, your figures, and possibly your code if you used a software such as R. You will need to make an account with the journal and submit everything they require within their formatting guidelines. Make sure to research how to write a cover letter for a manuscript, as it is entirely different from one you would submit for a job posting. As well, it is a good idea to set up an ORCid, a unique code to identify scientific and other academic authors to keep all of your contributions organized, and link it to your paper.

Step 7: The Peer Review Stage and the Revision process

After submitting your manuscript, if the editorial board chooses to accept your paper, it will be sent to a committee of peer-reviewers. This may take between several weeks to several months. The peer-reviewers will provide feedback on your paper, which is essentially another round of edits. From the number of changes they request, you may either have minimal revision or possibly have to redo certain sections. This is one of the final hurdles, put in your best work and polish it according to the guidelines from the peer reviewers.

Step 8: Accepted for Publication – Choosing Between Open Source vs. Copyright Transfer

Once accepted for publication, you will have 2 options: leave your paper as open-source or transfer the copyright over to the journal. Open source publications are openly available to viewers but can cost the publishing authors upwards of several thousand dollars. Copyright transfers typically have no cost involved with the publication, but viewers must read the paper either through an institutional proxy or by subscribing to the journal. Both options are valid, so choose whichever is most practical for you and your team.

Step 9: Final Revisions from the Journal

As you come close to publication, the journal will send you a proof with a list of final revisions. These are typically the last changes you can make to your paper, so ensure that everything is as you want it to be.

Step 10: Publication

This is the finish line, and once you have passed it, you are done! It takes time and effort, but once you are published, you are officially an author! Make sure to keep a balance during this process, talk to your family and friends, spend time on your hobbies, and ensure that you have downtime. Ultimately, it will all come together.

The importance of art in our fast paced society

The image contains 5 rows of desserts, with each row containing 3 photos of the same dessert. From Bottom up the desserts are churros, cookie bars, caramel cupcakes, white chocolate covered cake pops, and a dark chocolate cake.
A screenshot of some desserts I have baked taken from my instagram page @torontobaking

Where would art be without science? Where would science be without art?

Allowing us to express our ourselves in a way that makes us feel most understood, I believe that everyone has their own form of art.

For me, my form of art lies within baking. Baking combines art and science; it is self-expression with precise measurement, allowing the freedom to innovate, experiment, and discover. Baking is an art for all of our senses. From the infinite array of colours one can pipe onto a cake to the silky smooth texture of a soufflé, the sweet scent of freshly baked apple pie, and the crisp sound that emanates from biting into a crème patissière filled cannoli, baking and culinary arts engage all of our senses.

Why is any of this important? Why does art matter?

Art is an expression of ourselves. It helps us communicate and feel understood, and then shares this with the world. Art exists to make us feel and to invoke emotion. When I bake, I share it with others to invoke feelings such as excitement, joy, warmth, comfort, or gratitude. It’s a way to connect and bond with others, to come together as a community and a culture.

Art is limitless. Whether it be through painting, sculpting, sewing, creating music, dancing, or any of the endless forms of artistic mediums, each artist has their own chosen medium of expression. All of these invoke emotion, and all of these contribute to the formation and development of our society and culture.

Science can advance society; Art brings it together. Ultimately, art is a science, and science is an art. One cannot exist without the other; they are intertwined.

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Yale University’s Young Global Scholar Program & Planning for Instructing

The image contains a letter of admissions.
It is truly an honor to receive this letter of admission. The image has been altered to conceal confidential information.

I am honored to write that I have been offered a position as an instructor of Biology and Applied Science at Yale’ university’s Young Global Scholar Program. This incredible program located at Yale University hosts students and instructors from across the globe and focuses on providing lessons and seminars on a variety of interdisciplinary subjects. With three different sessions running throughout the summer, YYGS offers programs in Applied Science and Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Science, Literature, Philosophy, and Culture, Politics, Law, and Economics, as well as on Solving Global Challenges. Covering such an extensive array of fields, students from all academic backgrounds receive an immersive program curated for expanding and relating to current knowledge as well as introducing new subjects.

Having the opportunity to work as an instructor, I am excited to empower students by providing them with tools to make a proactive change in currently trending subjects within the field. This program is truly novelle and ahead of the curve by supporting instructors and providing them with the freedom to research and develop seminars and lessons on what we believe will captivate and engross the students. So far, I have developed a seminar on combating the misconceptions of natural selection & evolution, as well as on the implications of biodiversity loss and plant invasion on ecosystems. Having worked in a lab and done extensive research on restoration ecology, I believe that introducing students to the repercussions of plant invasion on the environment will contribute to early intervention and ecosystem preservation.

Students need to be supported by teachers. Curating engaging lessons while gauging their learning as the lesson goes on is essential to students’ success. I have previously discussed how important it is to include teaching that includes different forms of learning (for auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc. learners), and I think that the line does not stop there. Often times, students with different forms of disabilities are not accounted for in lesson preparation and feel discouraged. I believe that as an instructor, it is fully my responsibility to embrace a pedagogy that assists students by curating accessible lessons. By reading and incorporating the information from Yale University’s links, I am attempting to create lessons that are accessible to the diversity of students that I will be teaching. If you know of any other website or link that can help me provide engaging and accessible seminars and lessons, please share them with me as I am eager to read them!

Academia was not always an easy path for me, but it was certainly lightened by the incredible teachers, professors, mentors, lab members, and teaching assistants that I met along the way. Just as I was assisted by my many instructors, I too hope to support and guide my students through their academic journeys in a way that allows them to access their true potential.

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Revisiting York University’s Experiential Education Symposium & Panel

A brief overview of our panel discussion and my perspective on why we must incorporate a variety of teaching styles for student success, as well as the critical role of experiential education in solidifying in-class learning.

5 people sitting at a table, four of which are panelists. The individual in the middle is holding a microphone.

Recently, I had the honor of speaking on a panel at York University’s annual Experiential Education symposium. Among the high profile attendees was York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton, as well as chair and faculty members of various departments, accomplished students presenting various educational experiences, and the remarkable EE symposium team who all worked tirelessly to plan and execute such a successful event.

5 people are sitting at a table, 4 of which are panelists. The person from on the left is holding a microphone.
Four objects on a table. left to right the objects are a box with a pen attached to it, a certificate of recognition, and a microphone.

Do students currently receive the support they require?

As a recent graduate, it was a truly incredible opportunity to advocate the need for teachers and professors to enhance students’ learning by curating engaging lessons that incorporate the 7 different learning styles. When asked about the importance of reflective assignments, I spoke on why it is crucial and urgent for university faculty to address students’ needs for different types of teaching and assessment. Simply sticking to one form of teaching such as visual or verbal, or assessments strategies such as tests or assignments often leads to failure by some of the most talented and hard-working students. It is truly disheartening to witness brilliant students give up on their passions because the teacher or professor did not incorporate their optimal learning or assessment style. During this panel, I reinforced the importance of accounting for all students, accommodating for different needs, and utilizing different forms of teaching and assessment styles for inclusivity and student success.  I believe that the Professors, faculty, and staff at York University are progressive in this respect, and it is inspiring to see them include a variety of mediums while teaching, which I was privileged to experience during my undergraduate studies.

5 people are sitting at a table, 4 of which are panelists. The second person from the left is holding a microphone.

The relevance of experiential education

Speaking on a panel alongside a moderator, a current student, and two members of faculty, we discussed the importance of experiential education. As we reflected on our personal experiences in experiential education, I began to realize just how much external opportunities such as research placements, internships, co-ops, or volunteering truly reinforces classroom taught concepts and aids students with making a connection in the real-life application of these subjects. 

How often were you learning in a class wondering “when am I EVER going to use this?”. Until a concept or subject is related to current trends or explored in real-life applications, students may find themselves struggling with relating to a subject and in turn failing to find interest in it. True learning starts when interests are addressed. By giving opportunities and encouraging students to embark on experiential education, ideas and concepts are reinforced and students become empowered to make proactive changes in the real world. A subject taught on its own can be challenging to relate to, but when current trends and applications are discussed in the classroom, followed by hands on learning experiences outside of the classroom, students can master the most complex of fields. 

Giving students a chance

The search for opportunities is hard – especially if you are a student. Due to the often untrue negative connotations associated with students, professors, labs, organizations, and other areas that offer experience may refrain from accepting students. To me, this seems like a backward mindset – if someone is putting their time and effort to learn and educate themselves, wouldn’t you want them and their eager attitude on your team? I think it’s time to stand up for students and give them a chance. This is a two-way approach; students need to take on opportunities by deciding to embark on experiential education, while professors, teachers, employers, and co-op/volunteer coordinators need to take a chance on students and guide them to learning while assisting your organization. Students are eager to learn and improve, and their lack of experience can be overcome with their ability to learn while providing an innovative view of the subject and its relation to current trends.
In ecology, it sometimes occurs that two (or more) organisms both gain a net benefit from their interaction; this is called mutualism. Now is the time to take a chance on students, and witness how you both develop a successful mutualistic relationship by working together. 

Closing remarks
I am extremely grateful to everyone involved in planning and executing this event as well as all attendees. I appreciate and value York University’s faculty, staff, and students for allowing us to discuss our opinions on these subjects. I would like to also thank everyone for being so receptive to these insights and am open and appreciative of any and all critique and feedback.

For more information on the event:
News article by York University on the symposium
Tweet by York University

Credits: All photos of the panel are by York University C&PA

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How I Paid for School and Graduated Debt Free

This October, I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and an Honors Thesis in Restoration Ecology. Throughout my university experience, I paid entirely out of pocket for my studies, materials, and supplementary expenses. I did not use any financial aid programs and independently funded my entire education.

I won’t sugar coat it – paying for school is not easy. But, just like exercising, the most difficult workout sessions prepare us for life and force us to develop habits that ensure future success. Covering my own fees throughout university and paying for my education taught me many crucial life lessons. This wasn’t simple, but I did it, and so can you. Although there are many important points to know and figure out ahead of time when paying for your own education, I’ve used lessons I learned from my own experience to outline 5 major pieces of advice that will help you pay for school and graduate without any debt.

  1. Pursue Entrance Scholarships 

University is a big jump from high school. With a greater sense of freedom and autonomy also comes responsibilities. While you are in high school, a more student-focused education and smaller classes can provide you ample opportunities to speak to teachers and gain advice on how to improve your work. Although they do not in any form determine your worth, increasing your grades can gain you a wide variety of automatic entrance scholarships. Look up universities or colleges that you are interested in and search up their entrance scholarship eligibility. Often times scholarship eligibility starts at around an 80% average and can cover hundreds to thousands of dollars worth of tuition. Similarly to entrance scholarships, there are numerous scholarships available for a vast array of interests, backgrounds, and talents. Whether you are on a sports team, an entrepreneur, a musician, or anything else you may identify with, scholarships and bursaries can assist you with getting through school. Make sure to apply before the deadline.

2. Time budgets

Last year, during my final year of school, I was conducting a thesis, taking classes, running two of the largest clubs on campus, working a part-time job, starting a culinary Instagram page, working out regularly (to balance out all of the baking), and still making time to spend with my friends. Someone asked me how I have time for it all, so I decided to make this post. Here, I discussed time budgets, what they are, and how I utilize them to maximize efficiency and productivity in my tasks and responsibilities. I thrive off of time budgets and utilize them every single day. To summarize, I schedule absolutely everything I do and give myself a budgeted amount of time to complete it. This way I can have back to back tasks without worrying about forgetting something or not having enough time to complete it. I highly recommend this article to anyone who struggles with time management, as my schedule is my personal magnum opus, and has given me the ability to take on an extensive amount of opportunities.

3. Explore a Variety of Hobbies

Similar to point 2,  balancing a variety of different hobbies or interests can allow us to increase how much we accomplish. A recent study by the BBC discussed how multiple of the most brilliant polymaths display interest and participate in a variety of different fields. The article discusses new research which suggests that having diverse interests yields greater productivity, creativity, and overall life satisfaction (Robson, 2019). Undertaking multiple ventures, including working a job while studying, brings in separate responsibilities and tasks into your life. In turn, this can provide a method of continuing productivity when you overwork and start experiencing diminishing returns within one subject by transferring your attention to the next.

4. Commuting VS. Campus Life

Although living on campus has ample perks such as being close to your classes and allowing for time to socialize, it can definitely add more to your tuition. When you are looking into post-secondary education, make sure to explore your options for living arrangements. Living on campus in a dorm adds expenses such as meal plans but reduces your transportation fees. On the other hand, if you live close enough to your school of choice, commuting can save you thousands of dollars, while reducing your time to socialize. To ensure that I could afford school, I commuted daily. I won’t lie to you and say it was always great, commuting on public transit was at times difficult, especially in inclement weather, but it absolutely helped me afford tuition.

5. Choose Your Jobs Effectively

I worked multiple jobs throughout my undergrad. With the rising cost of tuition, students sometimes need to take on several opportunities to afford to put themselves through school. For this reason, I highly suggest developing skills and gaining experience throughout highschool through co-op positions and volunteering to be eligible for positions that can benefit you as well. It can be strenuous to support yourself on a minimum wage, so make sure that you are applying for jobs that you can support yourself on, have room for growth, or will provide you with highly valuable experience that you can utilize and apply later in life. I ensured that each job I took on made sense with my schedule but also helped me to develop work and life skills. Similarly, you may want to consider having a part-time job in high school. I have been working since I was 16, and have since gained experience in a wide array of fields such as by working as a stylist, an early childhood assistant, a lab assistant, and more. Each and every one of these experiences has advanced me on my journey and assisted me with self-growth, taught me critical workplace and life skills, and has guided me in paying for my education. As well, I have gained life long friends from these jobs.

By following these steps and budgeting my finances, I managed to graduate completely debt-free. Through full-time jobs in the summer and part-time positions working 15 – 20 hours per week during my semesters, I got through school. I budgeted my time, my finances, and made sure to prioritize my health and well being above it all. School, especially during exams, can be busy and exhausting, so ensure that you are your top priority and that you are making time for self-care. I managed to get myself through school and I am proud of it and you can too!

Discovering Ourselves – Why is Self-fulfillment Important?

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to run a joint self-fulfillment workshop and culinary masterclass to a group of students and young professionals part of Aish HaTorah.

Speaking to an incredible group of young professionals. Thank you to all attendees for your overwhelming support!
It was thrilling getting to lead a baking masterclass after the talk. Somewhat a simultaneous play on words and on the pallet to follow a self-fulfillment class on a sweet note.

Giving a class to these incredible individuals on such a critical topic was truly an exhilarating experience. In a culture where social media plays an exponentially increasing influential role, comparison to other people and their lives can lead to feelings of unfulfillment and allows self-doubt to take over.

What is self-fulfillment?

Self-fulfillment stems from finding a balance, neither mania or depression, but rather a grounded state where we are comfortable with who we are, accepting ourselves, our strengths, as well as recognize our opportunities to improve. When we are fulfilled we set realistic goals that are important to us, celebrating our accomplishments while being able to give ourselves critique to assist self-growth.

So how do we reach fulfillment?

The task to reach self-fulfillment is not a simple one – it does not actualize overnight.  There are several categories that one must address:

  1. A lifetime VS. a snippet

Everything in our life must end, and to each individual, there is only one thing that is eternal; ourselves. Everyone else that enters our life is temporary, and whether it is a long temporary or a short one, their presence in our lives must one day cease (this too shall pass). If everyone who enters our lives is temporary, why would we not always value the eternal opinion? Everything must end, but our relationship with ourselves is permanent. For this reason, I believe that it is crucial for us to put our own opinion of ourselves above all others. 

2. Speaking to ourselves or speaking to a loved one; what’s the difference?

It seems almost ingrained in some individuals to speak much more critically to ourselves than to those we care about. Is this not an urgent issue that we must address? If we are spending our lifetimes with ourselves, wouldn’t we want to speak in the most supportive, understanding, and motivational way in order to accomplish the greatness we are capable of? When we speak to ourselves, the tone we use directly correlates to our opinion of ourselves and subsequently what we believe we can accomplish. If we desire to reach our goals, it is essential to believe in ourselves and our abilities to reach them. Therefore, we must learn to speak with ourselves the way we would with a good friend or loved one; with support, understanding, and patience. Self-fulfillment means that we increase our positive affirmations and daily gratitudes while avoiding self-devaluation, negative self-thoughts, or settling for less. 

3. Progress

We differ from artificial intelligence because we take the time to learn or finish tasks, it’s what makes us human. Every journey and task that we embark on requires a certain level of time and effort that varies by difficulty. When setting goals, we are eager to see instant results. It is essential to remember that we are en route to success and that it comes in parts. Success rarely comes altogether; Rome wasn’t built overnight. It can be easy to give up in the middle or just prior to accomplishing our goals. Self-fulfillment comes when we are able to accept that progress can differ throughout stages. Whether rapid or slow, progress means that we are on track and we must celebrate our accomplishments at different stages. We must avoid delegitimizing or invalidating our progress because we compare ourselves to others who seemingly display faster or greater progress. Comparison is the root of feelings of inadequacy and allows the intruder effect to take over, responsible for making us feel like we don’t belong or underqualified. We are fulfilled when we are aware that our progress is valid and leading us to our goals, and when we can give ourselves positive feedback to ensure or increase future progress, without comparing it to anyone else but ourselves.

4. Actions and goals

We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. Just as it is important to be proud of our accomplishments and strive towards our goal, it is equally important to remember that other people are also on a journey, and many haven’t reached their peak just yet. While we consider our own reasoning and purpose for certain actions, we often take note of the direct actions of others without concern for their venture. Proper self-critique and an understanding, empathetic, outlook can guide us on becoming the best version of ourselves while assisting others to reach their version of self-actualization. We are a pack animal; we yearn for the support from others. The saying “don’t look into someone else’s bowl unless you are checking if they have enough” goes both ways; don’t look to compare your life to theirs. The success they have reached or accomplishments they have fulfilled came with consequences, difficulties, struggles, and work that we may be completely unaware of. We are also on the way to success just as they once were. Similarly, we must be empathetic and supportive of them and their journey. If they are not as successful or accomplished as we believe they should be, we once again must acknowledge that everyone is going through an intensive journey, and we may not be aware of the struggles they have faced. Providing understanding, empathy, and support will assist them with reaching the greatness that they are capable of. It is important to keep in mind the difficulties others go through and to never assume or judge to conclusions on the abilities or disabilities someone has. It is also not our place to determine this for someone else. Self-fulfillment comes when we focus on being the best version of ourselves while supporting others on their personal path.  

Self-fulfillment allows us to reach and surpass our goals and dreams. You deserve fulfillment. Everyone is on a unique path, and changing our inner voice to one that is supportive and encouraging can propel us to our goals.

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Why startup experiences & hackathons are important for students

Recently, I worked with the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST Lab) at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering to plan and organize Canada’s largest startup.

Over several weeks, I communicated with and invited top-tier speakers, mentors, and workshop leaders to ensure an incredible learning experience for students. Between guaranteeing that scheduling lines up, confirming that partners present applicable educational content, and securing proper accommodations for all attendees, I had a wide variety of tasks to make certain that I properly organization and coordinate this event. Fortunately, I worked with an incredible team that provided unimaginable support and helped me manage the planning. Thanks to their support and guidance, this event was a massive success, with attendees giving incredible positive feedback.

I am grateful to everyone from the BEST Lab at the Lassonde School of Engineering as well as all of the speakers, mentors, workshop leaders, and student attendees for all of the assistance and guidance with curating the schedule for this event.

Events such as these are absolutely crucial to students not only developing essential teamwork and entrepreneurial skills but also creating highly valuable connections. Whether it’s meeting other students or high profile leaders, building your network opens doors to opportunities you didn’t know existed. Jobs, volunteer opportunities, or co-op placements can all come through with these powerful connections in unexpected ways. Not only are these connections important for discovering opportunities, but discussing life and career paths/journies that someone experienced took can give valuable insight and advantageous life advice.

It was exceptionally inspiring to have the chance to address a large audience of such motivated and driven students and seeing how much effort they put in obtaining an optimal learning experience.

Learning comes through a widespread of mediums, and startup/hackathon weekends are incredible events that provide indispensable skills for students. When experienced individuals who are in the workforce mentorship or lectures to students, they provide not just advice but personal experience. Advice and guidance can be read and discovered from books or media, but advice coming from real experience can shine a light on critical points that other mediums negate.

Whether attending a startup/hackathon weekend, attending a conference, or even just participating in networking events, hearing about the academic and professional journies of different people can spark inspiration and guidance on pathways we may have not previously considered. So if you meet someone who inspires you, offer to buy them a coffee and ask them what advice they wish someone gave them at the start of their career – the answer may revolutionize your path.

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The Joy of Aging Fundraising Brunch & Defining Success

Top Row (Right to left) features Dr. Karine Rashkovsky (Founder, Director, and lead instructor at Brain Power Enrichment Programs) alongside Natasha Tolub (Director of Richmond Hill Art School, Co-Founder of Hi-Lo bites)

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Joy of Aging Fundraising Brunch. Hosted at the Bellevue manor, the Joy of Aging 2019 raised proceeds for the Mackenzie Health Foundation funding the new DASA program (domestic abuse and sexual assault care center). This unit will have a specialized team of healthcare providers and social workers to aid women, men, and children that experienced domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, or abuse. 

The Mackenzie Health Foundation, established in 1977, is now working on the construction of the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital with an expected completion date before 2021

With phenomenal speakers discussing the genetics of aging, reversing aging through telomere extension, and how to keep your skin younger longer alongside incredible booths, services, and sponsors this event was astounding. Concluding with a fashion show, the fundraiser brought together a multitude of remarkable female leaders together to learn about skin health and raise money for an important cause. Through creating ground-breaking impact by conduction revolutionary research, owning and running thriving businesses, alongside creating monumental change and impact in a variety of fields, the hall was full of ultra-impressive role models and mentors. Going to this event truly opened my eyes to the variety of career options and pathways one can take to achieve success.

Success is such a delicate word, and it has always fascinated me just how subjective its definition is. Ask 100 people, and you will get 100 different interpretations. Ranging from fiscal stability to academic mastery, a large healthy family or the ability to travel the world, the definition of success is entirely based upon one’s values.  

After being in a room full of highly motivated, driven, and impactful individuals, I recognized that the opportunity to continue learning and to gain insight on topics both within and separate from my major are what drive me towards success. To me, success is implementing what I learn to create progressive change and a positive impact on the communities, society, and the world I live in. By having exposure to and the ability to talk with such esteemed female leaders, I gained insight into how I personally can reach success and make influential contributions.

Alongside with being relative from person to person, the meaning of success to us as individuals heavily depends on time. A few years ago, I was just commencing my undergraduate degree and success to me meant doing well in my courses and multitasking school with work and extracurriculars. Now that I have finished my BSc, my interpretation of success has shifted to finding a way in which I can implement meaningful change either within or separate from my field of study. As time passes, we either reach or miss our goals causing us to modify our definition of success. We sometimes see accomplished and well-regarded individuals who view themselves far from success because each time they reach their goal, the new definition of success sets the bar higher. We want higher pay, increased vacation time, a better car. This can in turn fog up our view of how far we have come from our first definition of success, and we forget how much impact we have already established. 

It is important to recognize our past successes and accomplishments because it pushes us to strive for more. Setting the bar higher is essential to creating greater impact, to make positive change. Despite all this, it is essential to stay aware of the successes we have reached so that we can recognize the greatness we are capable of. Ensuring that you have positive role models and mentors, along with being certain in your abilities and recognizing the past successes that led us to where we are now aids us in achieving major novel innovation and breakthroughs. We are capable of whatever we accept as possible and the only limit to our achievements, and essentially our success, is ourselves.

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Think Tank Challenge with Brain Power Enrichment Programs

Christina (left) is a recent graduate from Queen’s University. With both of us majoring in S.T.E.M fields, it was intriguing to discuss the similarities and differences of our academic and personal pathways throughout university. The different skills that university students acquire among different programs and schools allow for collaboration that yields a diversity of ideas and an increase in productivity.

I recently had the honour of being invited by my teacher, mentor, and friend Dr.Karine Rashkovksy to attend the Brain Power Think Tank Challenge as an alumnus of the program. With alumni from Western, Queen’s, UofT, McMaster, Schulich, York, along with high school graduates who attended UTS, IB, TOPS, MaCS, TKS, and other gifted programs, we were given complex tasks to collaborate on and investigate novelle strategies at resolving business-esque challenges.

Not only did the Think Tank challenge allow us to explore sophisticated challenges, but it allowed us to meet and work with like-minded young professionals. It was a pleasure to meet with and discuss the academic and professional journeys of other recent graduates and inspired me to take upon new life challenges and pathways.

A background on Brain Power

Dr Karine Rashkovsky is the founder and director of Brain Power Enrichment Programs which at the 2019 Vaughan Business Awards won City of Vaughan’s Small Business Award- top 3. Alongside this, Dr. Rashkovsky is a recipient of a plethora of additional prestigious accomplishments and awards including winner of City of Vaughan’s Top Entrepreneur Under 40 Award – top 3, and York Region’s 2018 Passion into Practice Award. She collaborates on research both nationally and internationally, is a published author, an entrepreneur, an artist, and much more.

Dr. Rashkovksy – Founder and director of Brain Power Enrichment Programs

In the words of Dr. Rashkovsky, Brain Power enrichment program’s mission is to create an innovative curriculum that exceeds current educational standards alongside with integrating the importance of social responsibility. These exceptional programs in English language arts, public speaking, math and problem solving, and entrance exam preparation assist students to excel both inside the classroom as well as in their personal life and professional endeavors.

As an alumnus of the brain power enrichment program, I can confidently say that the lessons and skills taught to me by Dr.Rashkovsky play an integral part of my everyday life. From writing and defending my Honours Biology Thesis to composing professional emails, the English language proficiency I learned at Brain Power guides and improves my interactions and communications on a daily basis.

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5 Things I Learned From Writing and Defending my Honors Thesis

I did it! I wrote and defended my Honours Biology Thesis. After a year of conducting literature reviews, planning my experimental design, running my experiment, laboratory procedures to analyze my samples, and learning SPSS to analyze my stats, I composed a thesis encompassing all of my work. This past year, I learned a lot from my research. Here are the top 5 things that this thesis taught me:

  1. Figure out your research question

This might seem really common sense, but knowing what you are attempting to discover or research is substantially more difficult than it seems. My thesis was on restoring native plants in the Californian deserts which are invaded by an exotic species. So initially I wondered “how do I save these natives from this invasive?”. This question is too broad. You need to pinpoint what it is exactly you are looking for – in other words, what is the relationship you aim to examine? Ultimately, my thesis question ended up examining if there are certain densities of these natives that can outcompete the exotic species by suppressing its competitive capacity. This was the primary question. Whether the natives can suppress the exotic, done, period. There will be other factors, other relationships to note, but first and foremost you need to determine your main inquiry and report these findings.

2. Know the difference between complicated and complex

Writing a thesis or conducting research is not easy. It is a long and strenuous process. Every single part of my experiment was based on the multitude of papers I read during my literature review, from the size of the pots I was using to the number of seeds I used per cm². This work is not easy, but it’s not complicated. Complicated suggests that this topic cannot be understood or explained to other people outside of this field. Complex means that there are many components, but ultimately it can be described to someone outside of your field (sharing knowledge among fields is always fantastic).

3. Set yourself time budgets

Writing takes time. Research takes time. Make sure that you are on top of your work. It might seem like you suddenly have a lot of time before the due date, but this is the time you take to conduct more literature reviews, analyze your stats, and start writing. Editing can take you weeks. This is not a high school lab report, you can’t do this the night before it’s due. You may think you are done and when the edits come back, you might have to rewrite large amounts of your report. Make sure to stay on track with your time budgets. Give yourself reasonable amounts of time to finish tasks.

4. Confidence brings success

Going to your defense is a high-stress situation. You need to be able to present your work and answer inquiries on it. It is at this moment that it is most important for you to bring self-confidence. Your stance, intonation, body language, and facial expression all show whether you are confident in not only yourself but in your work. It took me a long time to get to the level of self-confidence and self-fulfillment of where I am now, but it is essential to work on valuing yourself and your abilities so that it shows when you speak. If you believe in yourself, it makes it easier for others to also believe in you.

5. Know that your thesis and academic success is not your entire worth

It can be absolutely nerve-wracking writing a thesis, and when things go wrong (which sometimes they do!) it can be challenging to continue, persevere, and believe in yourself. It is exceptionally easy to feel like your GPA or the research you conduct describes how successful of a person you are, and let me tell you this is not the case. Some of the most well-read and knowledgable individuals do not see their families, do not contribute to their communities, and spend their lives isolated. To me, this is not success. Success to me is developing self-fulfillment from the vast array of relationships we have in our everyday lives along with assisting others with their journies. While writing my thesis I had immense help from every single person in my lab, from my supervisor, from my partner, from my friends, and from my family. I had people help me with my thesis in ways that would not benefit them but made my thesis so much better. I was supported along the way, and without these people, I would not have been able to write this thesis. You are not alone and can get help from others during your research. The academic community is filled with extraordinary individuals and reaching out for help is not embarrassing or shameful. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that if things aren’t going well, you can consult with others, rework your ideas, or take a breather but to not give up. The people who succeed are not people who never fail, they are people who have failed hundreds of times but kept going despite the roadblocks.

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