08/23/16

A tale of two commissioners

My first contribution in the faculty of science started with a momentous email in the June of 2015. This is when I was chosen by the Vice president Administration as one of two Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) clubs commissioners for the 2015-2016 academic year. To me, growing my UBC experience was strongly supplemented by growing within my faculty and this was an opportunity to grow at the pace that would support me without overwhelming my capabilities. The clubs commissioner role gave me unique opportunities to build my personal network and also support cooperation. As a clubs commissioner, I was supposed to ensure that science clubs got access to resources offered by the Science Undergraduate Society, and collaborations between the clubs were supported.

2015 Clubs orientation.

In August 2015, I co-organized the 2015 clubs orientation. This was meant to introduce the club presidents to the Clubs commission, inform them about resources through the Science Undergraduate Society, and instigate relationships between the clubs. With the reliable support of the VP administration and the co-clubs commissioner, the 2015 clubs orientation remains high up in my personal list of achievements in event organization.

The retreat.

In the spirit of team building, the Science Undergraduate Society organizes an annual retreat for all councillors, executives and associate executives. This year, I was lucky to join the SUS retreat to Hope BC. In addition to a change of pace, this weekend was a great opportunity to meet all the SUS student leaders and learn skills relevant to leadership within the SUS. Minor, yet entirely new to me was the nature of the meeting system of the SUS and AMS councils. It still impresses me as an effective way to conduct meetings involving large numbers of people quickly and efficiently. To me, the SUS retreat remains as one of the displays of UBC’s investment into building team cohesion and increasing capacity.

Science Students Appreciation Dinner.
With Ho Yi (left), the second clubs commissioner.

With Ho Yi (left), my fellow clubs commissioner.

Each academic year, the clubs commission organizes the end of year club presidents’ dinner to celebrate a year of achievement and collaboration. This year (2016) however, the clubs commission, with the support of other SUS executives, organized the Science Students Appreciation dinner. The first of its kind, the appreciation dinner was an expansion from the clubs dinner. This was intended to expand recognition from clubs exclusively to science all science students. Students were recognized for outstanding leadership, club activities and a vote was allowed for the “people’s choice” club – which the Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO) scooped.

In addition to being a great opportunity to share scrumptious Greek food while listening to live music, this was my first opportunity to co-MC to a large group.

Indeed, being part of the Science Undergraduate Society as a clubs commissioner has been instrumental in my leadership journey and I look forward to getting involved within the faculty of science again in the future.

05/11/15

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate research conference 2015

Date : November 2014 – 21st March 2015 

The first undergraduate research experience.

A few months after my application for mentor-ship under the Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO), a REX program, I was selected by Jennifer Guthrie, a PhD student in the faculty of health sciences and also a researcher at British Columbia Center for disease Research (BCCDC). The objective of the research experience was to conduct and present research under professional supervision, in order to develop and refine research skills.

I was tasked to conduct literature research on Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) techniques, contact tracing and surveillance, and how all these could be integrated to improve public health in Canada. I worked with two other mentees, with my individual focus being contact tracing, surveillance, and the implications of our review-type presentation on the public health system here in Canada.

Prior to my involvement in this research, I had conducted literature reviews for two of my courses for the first term and thus had some experience on research. However, doing research on techniques and content I had never been exposed to back in Africa, so much that I could present this information at a conference with a strong state of knowledge, was an initial challenge. In all honesty, I was afraid of cases where I had to answer questions on the details of the process of whole genome sequencing. Having a good mentor went along way in alleviating these feelings of inadequacy. With continued support and guidance from Jennifer Guthrie through out research and poster design, I was able to compile all my research and inculcate it into a poster that I would co-present with two other students from the faculty of science. Being able to do this well was tremendously inspiring – I was involved in research in something I had personal interest in, and my research could contribute, or at least serve to reinforce a greater cause.

The conference.

This experience was as much about the process of research as it was about poster design and presentation. A week Prior to the conference, I co-presented the research to Dr. Jennifer Gardy at the BCCDC, Dr. Gardy’s feedback was instrumental to polishing our work since she is one of the most prominent figures in public health in British Columbia. On 21st March 2015, we presented the poster to guests at the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC).

With Julio Lailano and  Jennifer Guthrie at the MURC

With Julio Lailano and Jennifer Guthrie at the MURC.

This experience has been particularly rewarding in terms of my career development. Working with a professional researcher enabled me develop better research methodology, review skills, critical thinking, poster design and professional presentation. More importantly, this gave me insight into the public health sector here in Canada; the disease control techniques, grant applications, shortcomings and potential areas of improvement for more effective disease control. Overall, I found this experience very rewarding.

The knowledge accrued thereby is vital to my development as an aspiring research scientist and hopefully, medical doctor in the future. The methodology of the research process is a set of skills I intend to use through out my career and the details on public health techniques I learnt could go a long way to improve disease control in my own community in Africa.