**Waleed Jamshaid, a fourth-year Life Sciences student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) explains the importance of scientific research, describing his experiences assisting with marine life research and his medical internship in Egypt.*
Marie Curie once said that “nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood”. Growing up in a family of professionals, ranging from engineers to lawyers, I had to live up to many expectations. While in middle school, I witnessed my father being involved in extensive research for his PhD, both in the lab and field. I soon developed an inner curiosity for scientific research which grew stronger throughout high school. One thing I perceived though was that students who want to go into healthcare-related fields are rarely encouraged to get involved in scientific research, so when I was asked to contribute to My Kind of Science, I realized that this would be a good opportunity to address the importance of getting involved in scientific research and the opportunities for self and professional development.
Scientific research gives you so much more than academic knowledge. In my second year of university, I had an opportunity to work as a Research Assistant in Honduras’s Utila Bay Islands. I worked with several PhD students from across the globe, but I was particularly drawn to a project led by Dr. Dan Exton from Essex University. Under his supervision, we conducted several surveys on coral reef ecology and reef fish species, and we learned various technical diving techniques to undertake research in such a diverse Caribbean marine ecosystem.
My role as Research Assistant was really beneficial. It gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of different things and even lead to a summer term job opportunity in Costa Rica. Apart from learning the cool science behind coral reefs and the ecology of Caribbean marine ecosystems, the most valuable things that I learned were how to be a self-starter, how to manage time effectively and how to gain self-control. Above all, I overcame various fears and finally understood what Marie Curie meant. Scientific research gives us the opportunity to understand more. It quenches our thirst for curiosity, it leads to the creation of new ideas, it shifts existing paradigms, and it eventually leaves a long-term impact on human society and our surroundings.
As a Life Sciences student, I have realized that the program itself is very broad and students learn a variety of concepts from various topics such as biochemistry, physiology, genomics, neurology, etc. Being able to get involved in research activities or going on international summer internships is very valuable and helpful when it comes to gaining experience before entering the workforce. This past summer, I traveled to Menoufia, Egypt as a volunteer at a public hospital. The healthcare internship was in collaboration with of the largest student-run not-for-profit organization AIESEC and International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA). During my time in Menoufia, I had a chance to be part of various healthcare awareness projects such as immunization and healthy nutrition, organized by Faculty of Medicine at Menoufia University. In addition, I had a chance to work with medical students from across the globe together we took part in over 200 different surgeries in various departments from general operation room, neurology, ophthalmology, gynecology, etc. This opportunity gave me the chance to experience and feel the unique profession of medicine first hand. Being able to network with experienced doctors from different parts of the world was an eye opener and taught me different methods and medical procedures used around the world.
In conclusion, any kind of work experience that is somehow related to the field of study is considered of great importance when you are entering the workforce or even if you are moving on to graduate studies. Small research opportunities and summer internships are a great way to give yourself an edge and not to mention such trips abroad that are out of your comfort zone teach you a lot about yourself and different cultures around the world.