Inspiring the next generation of women in STEM: LMP students give their advice

Feb 10, 2021

For International Women in STEM day, we speak to students in Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology, in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, about why they started studying the sciences.

They give their advice to young women interested in science.

Karen Mao, Undergraduate Specialist Program in Pathobiology

Karen MaoI was born in Edmonton but I left Canada when I was three and lived in China for 15 years. I came back to Canada for university and I am in my final year of Pathobiology specialist undergraduate program.

Currently I am completing a thesis project about tumor cell motility and cell invasion under the supervision of Dr. Marco Magalhaes.

My parents showed me the importance of staying curious and thinking logically, which gradually brought me to science. It was my high school biology teacher, Ms. Gu Ying, however, who really inspired me to study science in university. Her patience and teaching style made biology not simply an academic subject, but a source of fascination and imagination.

Once I finish my studies, my goal is to pursue a PhD and contribute to the area I am passionate about.

My advice

Explore as many directions in science as possible. Learn to be assertive and proactive. Science, especially academia, is a long journey so please be patient with yourself.

Amina Adama, MSc

Amina AdamaI am from Windsor, Ontario and am Master’s student in Dr. Jeremy Sivak’s lab at the Krembil Discovery Tower. My thesis project concerns identifying the signalling pathway of a neuroprotective lipid metabolite within the retina.

I’ve always been interested in scientific discovery and knew I wanted to pursue some type of career in STEM.

I was inspired to study in the field of medicine by a family friend who was a pediatrician - he was a great mentor to me and inspired me to want to be like him.

Later, I decided that I was more interested in scientific investigation which led me to Forensics. I was able to explore this interest throughout my undergraduate degree, including a practicum at our local hospital where I shadowed a pathologist and their team for the semester. It was here that I discovered a passion for medical research, which eventually led me to UofT and the LMP program.

After my studies, I am interested in working in the biotechnology industry, where I hope to use the skills I’ve learned to join in the discovery of tools to make the lives of others easier.

My advice

Don’t overthink it. If you have an interest in doing something, don’t be scared to try it out and see what you like.

Find what’s right for you and realise that life is everchanging so you can very well change careers many times over your lifetime.

Also, try not to be too disappointed when things do not always go as you planned. Because you don’t realise just how much you’ve achieved until you stop to look back at how far you’ve come.

Amanda Mohabeer, PhD

Amanda MohabeerMy parents emigrated from Guyana to Canada, and I was born in Toronto where I have lived my whole life. After completing my BSc at York University, I started graduate studies in LMP in 2014 and completed my PhD in 2020.

I first got interested in biology through passionate teachers in middle school and high school. My parents have been very encouraging of my pursuit for higher education and pushed me to follow my dreams pursuing research, even though it was something they were not familiar with.

During my time as a graduate student working with Dr. Bendeck, I became very passionate about science education and student success. I had the wonderful opportunity to mentor and supervise female undergraduate students and watching them grow as researchers was extremely rewarding. My long-term goal is to become a teaching stream professor at an academic institute.

My advice

If science is your passion then keep following your dreams!

Science is a field filled with endless opportunities so don’t be afraid to explore and grow. I have benefited from having mentors throughout my educational career, and I would encourage you to find one too.

Just remember there is no limit or time restriction on what you can achieve.

Read more about Amanda’s story in Alumni focus: Grade 8 science fair winner to PhD in LMP

Azadeh Bojmehrani, MHSc in Translational Research (TRP)

Azadeh BojmehraniI am an Iranian-Canadian. I got my PhD from Laval University, QC. Now, I am a first year student at TRP Master’s degree program.

My family members are in sciences and professors at universities. They always talked about their experiences and how magical science is. As much as they try to gain a deeper understanding, they just discover how little they actually know.

After my studies I hope to transfer my knowledge to the new generation and apply all I learned to make positive changes to world, specifically for women and young girls.

My advice

Never give up! Following this path has its ups and downs, but I assure you at the end, the light will show up.

Sally Moy, MHSc in Translational Research (TRP)

Sally MoyI am a first-year master’s student in the Translational Research Program.

I am actually the first in my family to pursue a graduate degree in the sciences!

Growing up, I really enjoyed my high school science classes and I was fortunate to have encouraging teachers who supported my learning. In high school, we learned about science through textbooks but I was really interested in working upstream of that, and being a part of the scientific process before it makes it into the textbook!

After completing my graduate studies, I want to continue focussing on helping patients and to amplify their voices. When we think of patient-centred care, it’s important that patients are seen as essential partners in any clinical, scientific, or innovative initiative.

Scientific communication is also very important to me especially right now, where misinformation is becoming harder to tackle. The most important thing for me is making a positive difference in this world.

My advice

Science is a big field with lots of subfields: explore your options and learn what you like and don’t like.

Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and to invest in your own learning.

Jenna Baffa, MHSc in Laboratory Medicine (clinical embryology)

Jenna BaffaI’m from Toronto working toward my MHSc in Laboratory Medicine at LMP focusing on the field of Clinical Embryology.

I used to volunteer at Humber River Hospital in the Dialysis department and had the opportunity to build a relationship with many patients. I learned about their treatment and prognoses and it fascinated me to understand how these things worked on a cellular level.

I wanted to be part of the community that make these breakthroughs and makes an impact on a patient’s life.

I have been aware of science since high school and always had a general interest in biology and chemistry, but it wasn’t until doing research into this specific program that I knew I wanted to make it into a career.

My goal is to work in a fertility clinic as a Clinical Embryologist. I am excited for the opportunity the LMP department will be giving us in a simulation lab to get hands on practice to the procedures an actual embryologist performs daily.

My advice

If you’re curious, if you feel you want to be a life-long learner, if you feel a passion toward any field of science, go for it.

Being a woman in science has its ups and downs, but I don’t think that gives any reason to be afraid. I am in a program with four other incredibly smart women, paving the way in a program that did not exist until just this past year. I was afraid to apply, but it turned out to be the best decision I made for myself.

There are so many opportunities, but you have to put yourself out there and give yourself room for challenges and growth.

Peyton Schroeder, MHSc in Laboratory Medicine (Pathologists’ Assistant)

Peyton SchroederI am from Brantford, ON and I’m studying a Masters in Health Science with a focus on becoming a Pathologists' Assistant.

My mother inspired me to pursue sciences all my life. She has a background in Kinesiology and other health sciences. I have always been aware of the scientific field but pursued it more in high school and university.

Once I finish my studies, I hope to work in a hospital laboratory working in surgical pathology as well as participating in forensic autopsies.

My advice

Do NOT give up on your dream.

Women are always needed and give a different viewpoint in science.

We can achieve anything we put our minds to. Never think you are not enough - you can do this.

Read more

Find out other ways LMP students are inspiring the younger generation in LMP graduate students bring science out of the lab and into the high school classroom