UHN scientists inspire students globally to pursue a career in STEM

Nikita, Oriuwa, Samuel, Felfeli
​​More than 4,000 students, parents and teachers from as far away as Australia, Chicago, Ecuador and Nunavut registered for this year’s UHN Krembil Research Institute International Day of Women and Girls in Science virtual event, which featured, (clockwise from top left), Dr. Nikita Looby, host Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, and Drs. Nardin Samuel and Tina Felfeli. (Photo: UHN)

More than 4,000 students from around the world signed up for the UHN Krembil Research Institute’s fourth annual virtual event for International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

The free, one-hour live stream was hosted by Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, a psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto, a spoken word poet, and an advocate for racialized and marginalized communities. Dr. Oriuwa was also recognized as one of TIME Magazine’s next generation leaders.

Three UHN scientists at different stages of their careers gave short, student-friendly talks to inspire young people of all genders and affiliations about their career paths and life journeys.

Dr. Nikita Looby, scientific associate with UHN’s Schroeder Arthritis Institute and head of UHN’s Metabolomics Facility, spoke about immigrating to Canada from Jamaica, and how, as a woman of colour in science, she hopes to be a role model for aspiring Black students.

“All women, but especially women of colour, need to know that they have a place at the table,” she said.

Dr. Tina Felfeli, an ophthalmology resident and clinician scientist trainee at UHN’s Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute, shared how she believes her passion for science and research will make her a better doctor.

“As a scientist, I can bring my research into the clinic and help the very patients I treat,” said Dr. Felfeli. “There is nothing more rewarding.”

Dr. Nardin Samuel, a neurology resident and postdoctoral researcher, who focuses on innovative and non-invasive ways of stimulating the brain to try to change the trajectory of diseases such as Parkinson’s, discussed how following your passion and interests will always lead you down the right path.

“It won’t always happen for you right away, so you need to be patient and you need to be resilient,” she said, adding “​Just keep swimming” (referring to the famous line in the children’s classic movie Finding Nemo.)

Students and teachers joined the event from across Canada, and as far away as Maine, Chicago, Iceland, Ecuador and Australia.

Inspiring videos from Canadian aerospace engineer, Natalie Panek, and Canadian inventor and host, Andini Makosinski, were also a big hit with students.

“Be bold in your passions and whatever you love, and pursue them fearlessly,” Andini told the audience.

Each year, the Krembil Research Institute team produces this event with a goal of inspiring young minds and encouraging students of all genders, backgrounds and affiliations to learn about a day in the life of a scientist, and why science is a rewarding and exciting career.

“So much work goes into making this annual event a success,” says Dr. Amy Ma, Director of Operations and Stewardship for the Krembil Research Institute. “But the payoff – hearing such great feedback from students – is all worth it!”

“Each of our speakers has commented, ‘We wish we had an event like this one when we were students,'” added Dr. Jaideep Bains, Director of the Krembil Research Institute and Senior Scientist and co-Director of the Krembil Brain Institute.

“If we can inspire even one young person to consider a career in science with this event and encourage more diversity of thought and opinion in this field, everybody wins.”​

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