2020 Speaker Biography

Alina Kunitskaya

Since high school, Alina’s dream has been to become an astronaut. With no clear career path to becoming an astronaut, Alina has focused on finding a field she is passionate about and striving to excel in that field. She graduated with a BSc degree in Chemical Engineering with Biomedical Engineering specialization from the University of Calgary. Her passion for solving space exploration challenges led to her involvement in developing a process to recycle astronauts’ fecal waste into 3D-printable bioplastics, developing and flying a scientific payload in microgravity, developing an oxygen production process on Mars, and completing a simulated sub-orbital spaceflight in a centrifuge-based flight simulator to help scientists examine the physiological and psychological impacts of g-forces associated with spaceflight. Alina is currently pursuing a MASc degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of British Columbia focusing on bioprocess development for cell-based therapies with a goal of completing a PhD in this discipline.

Valeria Moncada

Valeria is a Salvadoran change-maker advocating for women empowerment and gender equality. She is a
junior at the University of British Columbia, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Community, Adult, and Higher Education. Her extensive journey in activism and social work has taken her to a Global Youth Summit by Global Changemakers in Switzerland, diverse United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals events and workshops, and to design and lead her own social project with international grants. Her social project tackled period stigma through educational workshops, and period poverty through donations of reusable menstrual pads. As an innate leader, Valeria successfully lead her team to reach more than 1,000 people through this project in only 3 months. She visited some of the poorest towns and increased national awareness about period poverty in El Salvador. Having conversations about periods is one of her favorite things, because she is convinced that period poverty must be tackled to achieve gender equality. Valeria is keen to talk about periods at this year's TEDxUBC and is ready to share her story through a humorous yet fascinating talk.

Lauren St – Germain

Lauren is a second year PhD student studying reproductive and developmental sciences at UBC. She loves her research and is excited to share with you her passion for reproductive immunology! In her free time, you can find Lauren letting off steam in a hot yoga class or mentoring through the YWCA high-school mentorship program. Lauren loves her research, science communication, animals, and spending time with friends and family.

Eunice Wu 

Growing up, Eunice Wu has always had an admiration for art, and 5 years ago she started creating her own collection of Photoshop composite photography. She is a self-taught graphic designer and digital artist who found a way to monetize the skills she developed into a profitable skill in business. Although she is studying for her Doctor of Pharmacy degree at UBC, a majority of her work over the past few years has been in the design and marketing industry. She has worked with hundreds of clients around the world, won national contests hosted by Jostens and Google, as well as featured in various galleries and on Adobe Live. While working in this field, she has observed and experienced many questionable practices that occur behind what you see on your screens. Want to know how to sell a product for 30x th production cost? How companies can legally conceal financial ties? Or how to make $10k by making a post online? Join her as she presents, “The truth about social media marketing”, as she reveals industry secrets, business malpractices, and how you can protect yourself from corporations fueled on insecurity and deception.

Michael Ko

Explore the power of brotherly love with Michael Ko as he gives his talk, “From disability to possibility”. Michael is currently a fourth year Engineering Physics student at UBC, with the dream of using technology to solve the accessibility challenges faced by many like his brother, Daniel. Daniel has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a disease which progressively weakens the muscles in his body overtime. Due to the nature of his condition, Michael had to take care of his brother ever since he was a child.
Seeing the physical hardships revolving around Daniel’s condition on a daily basis, Michael had a deep desire to help his brother in any way he could. Combining this with his passion for engineering, Michael eventually created an assistive AI and helped his brother regain the parts of his life he had once lost.
Join Michael as he shares his story of growing up beside his brother, the idea of possibility, and how a slight change in perspective helped him overcome the challenges that he had been facing for so long.

Katherine Tourigny

Katherine was born and raised in Vancouver, growing up outside enjoying everything the West Coast has to offer. She has a degree in neuroscience and is graduating in May from UBC Medical School. Her studies have taken her to (almost) all corners of the world including Antarctica, the 2014 UN Climate Change Conference in Peru, Taiwan, and the Canadian Arctic. She has seen the global community struggle with how to approach the magnitude of the climate problem, slowing the adoption of the environment-health connection. Medicine is increasingly focusing on preventing disease, rather than just treating the consequences. The reality is, that for this generation, climate change and its effects will be one of the largest challenges that must be faced together. In her talk, Katherine will show how we are discovering more and more the full effect the environment has on our health and how climate medicine may be the missing link in disease prevention.

Bahar Moussavi

Bahar Moussavi is a fourth year UBC Science student, studying Computer Science, Immunology, and Public Health. She found her passion for working with neurodiverse students, through her non-profit The C.O.D.E. Initiative. She Co-Founded The C.O.D.E. Initiative three years ago, with the aim of providing equal quality education to underrepresented youth. Her TedTalk will focus on what neurodiversity is and how we can utilize the potentials of neurodiverse youth, to create a better future.

Em and Rachel

Rachel (she/her) and Em (they/them) are a pair of student organizers from the climate justice group UBCc350, who study, work, and campaign on stolen xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) homelands. Rachel is an immigrant settler and third-year undergraduate pursuing an Honours in Human Geography and minor in Political Science. Em was brought up in Vancouver with Chinese and Dutch roots, and is a 2nd year undergraduate in Psychology and Social Justice. Em and Rachel met through climate justice organizing work with UBCc350 and bonded over a shared love for care work, community-building, and homemade brown-butter cookies. When they’re not scheming up plots to overthrow the system, Em and Rachel make time for art journaling, going to yoga, and cuddling their dogs, who are both named Ollie.