How to prepare an Integrated Sciences proposal

As we transition over to tell me which posts over the last 3 years have been your favourite! So that I’ll be sure to move those over.

Other recent posts on the new site


How to prevent procrastination

Are you all done with midterms? Trying to motivate yourself to get out of your post-midterm state to start reviewing for finals? It’s difficult to totally stop procrastinating but there are things we can do to devote our time to more important things than endless social media.

In the latest post, read about:

  • A surprising reason you might be a procrastinator yet overachiever.
  • Realistic steps you can take to change your mindset and environment to optimize focus
  • Specific programs and techniques to prevent social media distractions on your phone and computer


Why you should make a personal website and blog

Why make a personal blog?

Blogging has been a fantastic way to record the way my life was. I do recommend starting a blog if you’re starting first year because it will help you record precious memories such as the type of person you were,  what was important to you e.g. goals, values, the friends that you made. Some aspects of yourself will change as you move forward in your time at university and some will stay unchanged. Having a written records and photos can help you compare and figure out what those were. In other words, it will help you realize your self-growth.

A blog can serve as a highlight reel to help you realize how many people and opportunities you have to be grateful for.

Thanks so much for being a part of my time at the University of British Columbia! 143 posts here on UBC Blogs and all the times that you’ve come to read! I’m consciously reducing the amount of time I spend blogging (besides this blog, I co-run a food-centered blog with my friend) so I am blogging less this year compared to the previous two years. I currently plan to leave my old posts here in case they may be helpful to any students in the future though when I have time, I’d like to remove some of my not-so-great posts.


Why make a personal website?

I decided to follow the lead of mentors in research world and design a more professional looking  personal website at  Our online identities can define other’s first impression of us nowadays in our technology-heavy world so we should take control of our identities and make sure our online identities correctly represent who we are. I find Linkedin too constricting and I felt like building your own website gives you so much more freedom. I also think inserting pictures to represent what you’re passionate about is much more engaging than lines of text.

How to make a personal website

See this great guide to making a personal website that I followed:

Applying to UBC: Which program? Which campus?

Question (edited for brevity):

“I’m applying to UBC this year and there are so many choices for programs. Which one did you choose when you applied back then? Is general sciences offered on the vancouver campus or is it only at the Okanagan campus?”

Ooh university applications season is such an exciting time!

At other schools, I was applying to many neuroscience programs but at UBC, you don’t choose a major when you apply. You only choose a general program/faculty to apply to.

I applied to Science program on the Vancouver Campus and the combined Commerce/Computer Science program on the Vancouver Campus. In retrospect, I think I would have also been happy in the Kinesiology or Lands and Food Sciences degree.  I ended up picking Science as my first choice because I was interested in the pharmacology major (disclaimer: as some of you know, I am majoring in Integrated Sciences specializing in Pharmacology & Neuroscience).

You don’t have to know your exact major but I highly suggest that you think about the coursework and several majors that you would be interested in and then look carefully at the program that these majors are in. For example, if you are interested in Nutrition, you may be drawn more to the Faculty of Lands and Food Systems. If you want to study Pharmacology, or Microbiology, Science might be the best fit. If you’re interested in Physiology and Anatomy, Kinesiology or Science would be both good fits so then dig deeper in the coursework offered by each faculty.

Choose your program for yourself rather than blindly follow what your peers or parents tell you. When I was in high school, most of us just followed what everyone else was doing.  This can lead to good things such as a push to join clubs and sports teams. When you’re in high school, your parents likely still have a big influence on your life and may be pressuring you to pursue a particular major and/or career. Your parents and peers can definitely provide good advice but ultimately, you are the one living your own life. You are the one spending 4 years of your life in that major. You are the one spending the rest of your life in a particular career. Therefore, it’s your right to make the ultimate decision.

See Cathy’s Blog about breaking away from her father’ pressure to become an accountant to instead pursue science & potentially medicine:

I know some others might advise you to choose a “safe backup” as your second choice program but I advise against this. Many people do end up in their second choice program so make sure your second choice is something you will be genuinely happy to spend four years in! I’ve said this before in another post, but there is also no “safe backup” because there is no program that you are guaranteed to get into. To address this directly, there is a widespread misconception on UBC Vancouver that the Faculty of Forestry is “just a backup” program. There are many individuals in Forestry that love what they study and Forestry was their first choice so I don’t suggest looking down on any program.

What’s nice is that the application process can also serve as something to help you make a big choice. For instance, I used to be interested in studying commerce/computer science for a while but that interest waned towards the end of high school when I started to get interested in a career in scientific research and/or a career in health care. So I put them both down and used the process as a “let’s see where fate takes me.”

If you absolutely love your first choice program and don’t like anything else for your second choice, you should study as much as possible and get awesome grades in Grade 12 so that you can maximize your chances of getting in.

Which campus: Kelowna or Vancouver?

There is a Faculty of Science in Kelowna. If you’re specifically asking about the “general science major”, it is only offered in Kelowna. We don’t have the general science major in Vancouver anymore. We do have the combined science and integrated science programs instead. My advice for you is to, again, think of your intended major because the majors available are different there. E.g. if you want to study biochem, they have that major on both campuses. But if you want to study pharmacology, it’s not offered there as of the time of this post.

As for picking the campus, that is a really personal choice. I chose to stay in Vancouver because I 1) wanted to stay to support and help my family in Vancouver and 2) made an appropriate financial decision to save money. People told me and I’m sure you’re gotten this advice as well, “Don’t worry about the money. Just do what your heart tells you.” I want to counter that and say that the ~ $10000  or more for rental costs per year is a big financial consideration for some families, including mine . I didn’t want to spend the money renting a place for my undergraduate education because I wanted to save the money for my post-undergraduate education.

But if finances is not concern to you, I would say both campuses are beautiful and there is a lot to do and experience. I’ve visited the Kelowna campus and it’s awesome. Both of my cousins study in Kelowna and have had a pretty good experience.

I wish you the best of luck with your applications! Maybe we’ll see you here at UBC Vancouver next year!

We held a heart in class!

During this morning’s pathology lecture, our lecturer brought us three heart specimens to examine.  For those of you that have handled raw chicken, a heart feels VERY similar to a piece of young chicken. I highly recommend the class PATH 375 as an elective.  I find the content extremely interesting, and the lecturers very engaging because the content covers many disorders that most of us have heard of and there are many pictures of real specimens as examples. We have also learned about some rare disorders. 


Today is a bit of unusual day. After the pathology lecture, I’m in the library writing out this post. I’m going to review the flashcards I made for this cardiopathology lecture and then review respiratory pathology flashcards if I have time. At 2 PM, Rachel and I were invited to a food tasting and meet-and-greet with the Pacific Poke chef where we are going to do some photography. Then I’m going to spend time with my brother and knock out a psych quiz before going with Misaki to Harvest Haus. Though we don’t usually go out during the week, we didn’t want to waste the tickets gifted to us from Foodyensation. We’ve grateful to have received a lot of food tasting invitations lately, which has been keeping us busy.  But I also intend to turn down some in the near future to spend more time with my family, catch up on some research, and get some work done for Vision Health Volunteers.

Anyway, hope you all have a great day!


Apps Submitted, Studying for midterms, Dinner with friends

Hey! So if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that my last two months have been consumed by endless writing and editing. This morning, I finally sent the last application in. I feel relieved that I can have more time to study for upcoming midterms!

I feel like school just started not too long ago but we’re already a month in! Does anyone else feel like your September has flown by faster than you expected?  The fact that my next midterm is this Wednesday has helped me finally process that we are deep into the school semester already.

Today was a perfect day in many ways. My pharmacology and physiology lectures were interesting today. My friend, Amanda, and I then got a ton of studying done. I have been studying a lot in quiet places in the libraries lately so it was nice to study somewhere full of life. Then I had fun meeting a bunch of Amanda’s friends. They were all super funny and laid-lack. We had dinner at the Gallery on the 4th floor of the Nest. It was my first time and I liked it there, though their food is a little pricey.

Hope you have an awesome weekend!




Looking beyond setbacks

Yesterday I was feeling overwhelmed that I still have finish my applications but I don’t want to fall behind in school but there’s only 24 hours in a day and so on…  I struggled against writer’s block and asked myself, “What am I doing? It’s taken so much work to get here. Why am I faltering at this step?” I felt unsure of my own abilities because it seems that my belief that if I just try again and keep going, things would work out. At that time, it felt like that belief was wrong for once.

Today I remembered that school is my priority but it is not everything. It’s not worth getting too focused on. I had to turn down the invitation to today’s food tasting but stuck until two of my best friends (who are also food photographers) were finished to go home together.

We swapped funny stories on the way to the car and teased each other over the dumbest things. We even got wistful for a bit as we talked about our dreams and how we’re uncertain about achieving them but still going for it. The serious mood broke when the two broke into song to sing along with chorus at the same time. It was very fitting that it was the chorus of  Hedley’s “Perfect” that goes “I’m not perfect, but I keep trying”.

It was then as we laughed at how off tune the two were as we drove down past the beautiful darkness of the trees along Marine Drive, I remembered how lucky I am to have best friends that have had my back for the last 10 years. I remembered how lucky I am to be living my life that has been so full of precious people and experiences, and that I have so much to look forward to.

Most important of all, they helped me remembered that life is not going to be perfect, but it is still going to be awesome.

Yay! First Med School Application submitted

I am super excited to share with you all that I’ve submitted my very first medical school application ever. I keep reminding myself to be realistic that admissions is very competitive, and even more so for a third year applicant. As I said before, I’m going for it because I subscribe to “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” so you might as well take a shot. But I know there really isn’t a need to be too rush to get from one place to another.

The applications are taking up a fairly big chunk of time even though I tried to get as much done before school started. There are a couple more applications to submit so I’m going to get those done as soon as possible, and head back into focusing on classes, work and extracurriculars.

Speaking of applying to medical school, I want to recommend a MCAT test prep company that  called Magoosh. If you’re applying to graduate school or law school, they also offer tutoring for the the GRE, GMAT and the LSAT. Magoosh is offering  Save 20% on Magoosh test prep plans  to readers of this blog through that promo link – yay!

Have an awesome weekend!

How to keep track of assignments

Today’s post is a reply to a question posted by Shaun.

” Hi Shanna,

I have been reading your posts about UBC advice and I have been loving it! You seem to truly know your stuff. Currently, I am a first-year student (just started this month), so naturally, I am curious about all sorts of things.
How are Anki flashcards working for you?
How do you keep track of assignments from all of your classes?
and Do you find blogging to be helpful to your personal growth?



Thanks so much for reading and commenting Shaun. First of all, congrats on starting at UBC! How exciting! I wish you a great year full of fun adventures, new friendships, and figuring out how to ace your classes!

Thank you for your kind words. I hope this is okay with you that I’ll split up my answer into several posts, so I can take some time to give you a quality reply!

MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Set multiple email alerts for your small weekly assignments. I find that getting an email is much more helpful than a phone notification. If an alert about an upcoming assignment comes in as the same idea as a text from your boss or your best friend, you might forget about it! This is the email system that  I use with automatic email alerts. Note that I get 3 alerts! So that if I’m lazy and ignore the first email, my alerts refuse to let me forgot about that assignment!


For midterms and big papers, set 4 alerts. The first alert will come should be set for 2 weeks in advance.


Regarding weekly biology and psychology Launchpad/physics and calculus and statistics problem sets, do your assignment as soon as it’s available. If it opens Friday afternoon at 4 pm, do it before you relax for the evening.

Batch them together. If the professor releases 2 weeks of assignments at a time, I would do both of them at the same time since I’m doing it anyway. Getting yourself started is harder than continuing so if you have time, utilizing your good momentum can save you time in the long run.

My opinion only: Paper planners are superior to a cellphone calendar. I have friends that are brilliant students such as Veena and Kelsey that keep track of their due dates and exams all on their cellphone so that might work for you too. I tried the app too but I find it too much of a hassle to type something in and repeatedly check. When you have a paper planner, you can take it out as soon as the professor mentions it and write it down. Part of this is that I feel rude pulling my phone during a lecture but that might be a personal opinion and maybe everyone will doing that in a couple years.

When needed, keep a blank notebook for long to do lists . In busy periods of your life, a planner may temporarily not have enough space. For example, I used a blank notebook to plan out my estimated timeline for writing and editing my application. When you have a ton of projects in different realms in your life, you can have a page just about “urgent school assignments”, “to-dos for Vision Health Volunteers Club”, “Home life to-dos”, “Finalizing your major/other school admin things”, “General finance to-dos”.. Having a multi-purpose notebook on you at all times proves very useful though when you have a meeting and need to write something down.


I do want to note that in first year,  you have the most weekly assignments that you need to keep track of it that you can forget about because your professor will not remind you! If you utilize automatic alerts, you won’t forget. Each year, my classes get less and less assignments and put more weight on exams. For instance, in third year, only 2 of my classes have assignments. My PATH class has only a midterm and final. My physiology class is literally only based on final exam marks . So the further you go along, the less you have to care about little assignments.

Best of luck!


Useful and interesting UBC Courses and Electives for premeds

Thanks to the reader who asked this question: “What electives do you recommend for someone interested in a health profession such as medicine, pharmacy, etc?” I titled this post “for premeds” but this probably applies to students interested in pharmacy, optometry, etc as well! I also named this courses and electives because what was an elective for me may be a required course for you.

Full disclosure: I am not an expert and in no way a premed advisor. I’m just another student but since this was a popular question, I wanted to share my experience with my classes so far.

These were electives I took and found incredibly useful for the MCAT. By already learning this information in depth, studying for the MCAT will be freeze. I strongly believe that these courses help you help a solid science foundation that you will draw upon when taking high level courses.

  • PHYS 117 – Physics: Kinematics, forces, etc
  • PHYS 118 – Physics: Magnetism, electricity
  • BIOC 202 – Medical Biochemistry
  • CHEM 205 – Physical Chemistry
  • CHEM 233  – Organic Chemistry
  • CHEM 235 –  OChem Lab
  • PSYC 101 – Biological Psychology
  • SOCI 102 –  Sociology, Social Change, Institutions
  • BIOL 112 – Cell Bio
  • BIOL 200 – More advanced cell Bio (this was REALLY useful)
  • BIOL 260 Physiology

Classes that you’ll probably also find interesting if you’re interested in healthcare and medicine and diseases and all that great stuff

  • PSYC 101 – Biological Psychology
  • MICB 202 Immunology and Microbiology (diseases and stuff – very cool class)
  • MICB 302  More Immunology
  • BIOL 260 Animal and Plant Physio
  • CAPS 301 Human Physio
  • PCTH 201 Intro Pharmacology
  • PCTH 300 or 305 Pharmacology
  • PSYC 304 Neuroscience
  • CAPS 391 and 390 Anatomy  (though if you’re in Kinesiology, it’s supposed to be very similar to courses you have already taken)
  • CLST 301 Medical Terminology – greek and latin!
  • PATH 375 Human Pathology – Dr. Nimmo makes pathology class so interesting that 3 hours speed by.
  • ISCI 350 Darwinian Medicine

Please recommend any classes that I don’t know about!


Wish you all a fantastic start to the school year!