• Race to a Cure Authors

Student Success Box #6

February is the beginning of a difficult period for a lot of students. For some, it means dealing with university decisions, summer internship interviews, and overall opportunities for growth that may be difficult to approach. Below we dive into some tips and experiences that fellow students are able to provide for you.

What is an opportunity you took that taught you a lot more than you expected (can be a program, a course, a hobby, etc.)?

Kerry: Hey everyone! My name is Kerry and I’m a grade 11 IB student in Sudbury, Ontario, as well as a published researcher and volunteer at Race to a Cure. My passion is science, but I am also dedicated to advocacy for world issues such as the education disparities across the world.

An opportunity that has absolutely changed my life and stemmed my passion for science was my participation in science fairs. I started doing science fair projects in grade 5, my first project being how different levels of pH in soil affected plant growth. In grade 6, I studied the amount of bacteria in different sources of water, and I remember admiring the jargon on the senior projects at the regional science fair.

While my early experiences with science fairs were fun and allowed simple scientific inquiry, it wasn’t until middle school that I really explored a scientific topic I was passionate about. I had just moved to Sudbury, Ontario, which is well known as a mining city. I was concerned about the heavy metal concentrations in our environment that could have a negative impact on health. I contacted the local university lab and set out to examine the issue and propose a solution. Based on previous research, I established heavy metals could induce antibiotic resistance: a leading global health issue according to the WHO. I decided to use dandelion extracts, a pesky garden weed and traditional herbal medicine, to combat antibiotic resistance, which was successful through the modification of enzyme activity. At the regional fair, I had become the senior project with the scientific jargon and I was ecstatic to be sharing my passion with the younger students and judges. That year I went to the Canada-Wide Science Fair and brought home the top prizes, but also brought home the satisfaction of having found my passion and a thirst for more. I shared my project and experiences with classes, teacher workshops, events, panels, and even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

From that point, I’ve become heavily involved in the scientific community with a published article in the Journal of Medical Microbiology and roles as reviewers and editors to youth scientific journals. Science fairs have opened up tons of opportunities I would never have known existed and taught me the rewards of science!

Katrina: Hello everyone, I’m Katrina, and I’m a Social Researcher at Race to Cure and the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Vancouver Storybook. I am very passionate about writing and finding ways to harness my creativity into different fields.

The most amazing opportunity that I took advantage of in high school was immersing myself in my English studies. Back in grade eight, I never considered myself to be a humanities student. I felt as though I wasn’t opinionated or creative enough. However, the moment I let myself become more vulnerable and take intellectual risks in class discussions, I felt empowered and excited for every class! I had the opportunity to learn so much about the world in my English classes—history, controversial issues, writing, culture—and even more about myself and my values. As a result of my many group English projects, I developed my communication and interpersonal skills in this course. I definitely honed my impromptu speaking and critical thinking from all my English harknesses. Overall, I found English class to prepare me well with all the basics for writing and communication that I know are needed for applying to universities, leadership roles, or job experiences. It has been a crucial stepping-stone in my journey as a student leader as it enabled me to find more confidence in my communication skills.

What (in your opinion) is the hardest interview question, and how do you answer it?

Image is courtesy of Unsplash.

Palak: Hi there, my name is Palak and I am a grade 12 student in Mississauga, Ontario. I am one of the co-founders and Research Lead at Race To A Cure. I am enthusiastic about technology and mathematics, along with their applications in the fields of healthcare and education.

“What is your greatest weakness?”

This question is very commonly asked in interviews for clubs, societies, and jobs and can come across as daunting to many people at first, including myself. However, it is way simpler to respond when you can find a way to place yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. Prior to the interview, I highly recommend making a list of soft skills required for the position, as well as a list of values that align with the company. Then, ask yourself if there is a skill that is both on this list and one that you are constantly working to improve. You should answer in the following order:

  1. Name the soft skill that you lack in.

  2. Talk about a situation where you realized that this was one of your weaknesses.

  3. List a few actions that you took to tackle this weakness.

  4. If available, describe a recent situation where you noticed an improvement.

I do not recommend becoming too personal or extreme with your response, as it can come across as a red flag for many employers. However, do not fear vulnerability - your interviewer will appreciate you humanizing your skills and admitting any mistakes you have made in the past. If you can prove that you have made an active effort to improve your skills, your employer will learn of your resilience and ability to overcome adversity in workplace situations.

Reflection and analysis of one’s performance are key to improvement and development. How do you critically analyze your work and grow from it?

Emma: Hi everyone! I’m Emma, a grade 11 IB student in Ottawa, Ontario. I work as a Web Developer at Race to a Cure, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to create meaningful impacts on the lives of others through technology.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to get lost in the noise. To live life intentionally and make the most of every experience, it’s essential that we engage in regular self-reflection and evaluate whether our performances meet our expectations. My favourite tool for effective self-reflection is a personal-development journal complete with habit trackers, project timelines, and prompts for each day, week and month. Each morning, I create a to-do list of both mandatory events scheduled for the day and personal learnings that bring me closer to my goals. At night, I note down my progress on each task, next steps, and notable distractions that hindered my productivity.

Additionally, I set up spreads for each of my projects to track my progress, the mistakes I’ve made, and the lessons I’ve learned so that I can promptly refer back to my journal for guidance when similar situations arise. I find journalling particularly helpful as the relaxing creative process alleviates the discomfort that naturally comes with examining oneself. Moreover, visual formats like habit trackers and project timelines provide a straightforward representation of my progress through extended periods, which helps me see things from a broader and more objective perspective. With the help of regular self-reflection, I’m able to gain a more in-depth understanding of who I am, where I am, and what I want.

Article Contributors: Kerry Yang, Katrina Artes, Palak Agarwal, Emma Huang

Article Editors: Stephanie Sahadeo, Victoria Huang