Before they were scientists and clinicians: celebrating the women of ICORD

As girls growing up around the world, many of them wanted to be doctors, teachers, or archaeologists (although professional athlete, panda bear, falconer, and Latin scholar are also on the list). They overwhelmingly loved learning about math and science in school (with PE, English, and Geography also favourites). Their heroes and inspiration, however, are quite diverse. In honour of 2021’s UN International Day for Women and Girls in Science, we’d like to introduce you to a group of former future scientists: meet 26 women of ICORD when they were young!

Jessica, age 3

Jessica Archibald
PhD student, Kramer Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A Doctor or a panda bear (when my parents said I could be anything I wanted it took me some time to understand the limits of that statement).
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
All of them; I loved school.
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
A deep desire to know as much as I could about the human body.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Oliver Sacks. I read The man who mistook his wife for a hat when I was 15. He described brain function through captivating stories, these essays are what first piqued my curiosity for brain science.


Mae, age 5

Mae Shojaei
PhD student, Sparrey Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
Someone who knows more than everyone
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Math and Science
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
Going to work with my dad and reading his medical books- The magic school bus
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Roald Dahl! My hero maybe wasn’t a scientist but his books were so inspiring. They made me curious about the world around me. Having small children portrayed as the hero, he made me think knowledge and a little bit of courage can make you to go a long way!


Karen, age 6

Karen Jung, PhD
Biomedical writer, Granville Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A dolphin trainer/photographer/hair stylist
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Music and Art
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I had an “aha” moment during a third-year Biochemistry lecture on DNA and cancer taught by Dr. Michel Roberge. I was fascinated by the science and by the impact that health research could have for a lot of people. I have enjoyed being a part of the research community ever since.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
I remember having a very knowledgeable, energetic, and warm elementary science teacher – Ms. Homeniuk. At that age, my interest in science was lukewarm at best but she kept science class interesting and enjoyable.


Fatimeh at 7 months

Fatemeh Khorami
PhD student

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
An archaeologist
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Math
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I have always believed that math is so beautiful. Every time I solved a problem was an inspiring moment for me.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Firouz Naderi, an Iranian scientist who was Program Manager for Mars exploration. The first time I heard about him, I thought, “I can go work at NASA as well!!”


Numaira, age 2

Dr. Numaira Obaid
Postdoctoral fellow, Sparrey Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A paediatrician or an anthropologist
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Science & Geography
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
My first-year statistics professor and mentor.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Jane Goodall, her field research was such a unique learning opportunity


Alison, age 6

Alison Williams
Research Manager, Lam Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
An archeologist
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Social Studies
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
Hearing about all of the amazing research my undergraduate professors were doing while I was at UBC.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Bill Nye the Science Guy! I think we watched every one of his videos in science class. He made what seemed like complex science concepts both accessible and fun.


Tania, age 8

Dr. Tania Lam
Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A physician
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Math and English
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
My father always encouraged my curiosity and supplied me with lots of books and my first magazine subscription (National Geographic for kids). I was most happy spending my free time reading, so I suppose being exposed to so many different topics and ideas made going into research a logical path!
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Marie Curie – I did a project on her when I was in grade school, and was inspired by her dedication to her research, and how humble she was about her achievements.


Milly, age 6

Milly Zaletelj
Manager, PARC

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be an astronaut, volcanologist, geographer, or professional athlete
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Geography and P.E.
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I ended up in the sport and disability sector because I always wanted to make a difference. Might sound cheesy, but helping make the world more accessible and inclusive for everyone gives my work purpose and meaning.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
I thought Marie Curie was pretty cool, but I mainly worshipped Slovenian athletes. Playing sports and cheering for our athletes was and still is one of my favourite past time activities.


Femke, age 5

Dr. Femke Hoekstra
Postdoctoral fellow, Martin Ginis Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A teacher
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Math & “Science” (When I was in grades 6-8 (in the Dutch school system this is between 9-12 years) we had to do “school research projects” on topics that you wanted to know more about. And then we had to write a paper/report on it. Writing these reports and illustrating it with figures was definitely my favorite subject in elementary school!
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I wanted to be able to make an impact in the world or on someone’s life.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My biology and chemistry teachers in high school, who both supervised my school research projects. They taught me how to do a research project and how to communicate and present the findings to an audience that don’t know anything about your topic.


Bethany, age 11

Dr. Bethany Kondiles
Postdoctoral fellow, Tetzlaff Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A teacher
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Science, obviously!
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
There was no defining moment – I just always wanted to continue studying biology and neuroscience!
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My cousin, Stephanie. She was independent, smart, and encouraged me to dream big.


Mary, age 5

Mary Fossey
PhD student, West Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A dancer/choreographer (then later a pediatrician)
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
History and Geography
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was little because my brother had serious health issues. I always felt reassured in hospitals because I knew my brother was in good hands. It was also fascinating to see all the machines and workers in their uniforms.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Multiple. All the health care workers that took care of my brother throughout the years but especially his cardiologist and cardiac surgeon (Dr. Harder and Dr. Rebeyka).


Kathleen, age 6

Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis, O.M.C.
Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A newspaper reporter
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Honestly, I didn’t have a favourite–I loved Science and Math as much as I loved Social Studies and Language Arts.
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
The opportunity to use scientific methodology to answer questions, take on tough problems, and come up with solutions that could positively impact people’s lives.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Galileo. I got obsessed with Astronomy when I was in Grade 6. I developed this great admiration for Galileo not just for his new methods and discoveries, but for what he endured as a result of his discoveries (i.e., house arrest). His story taught me that sometimes people might not like what science reveals, even if it’s the truth. And that vindication can take hundreds of years.


Carolyn, age 6

Dr. Carolyn Sparrey
Associate Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
The first female pro baseball player
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Math and gym
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
Winning the city science fair in grade 5 (what tooth brushes and tooth paste work best) made me think science was interesting. Getting hurt a lot playing sports made me curious about human injury. I honestly didn’t think about it as a career option until I was a grad student at ICORD (thanks Tom!) right up until then, I was going to design cool machines and make lots of money as an engineer and I was still hoping for the Blue Jay’s scout to call.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My mom – she was always making things into experiments and helping us explore how things worked. She helped me and my siblings ask a lot of “why” questions and turned every learning experience into a game or competition. Christmas parties at my parents house continue to be famous for their design competitions (how can you make a moving Santa Claus float from some old recycling?)


Sarah, age 4

Sarah Morris
PhD student, Laule & Kwon Labs

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A vet, or maybe an author.
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Probably art, but I also loved reading books, particularly about animals.
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I always loved math, the complexity and problem-solving and satisfaction of reaching the right answer. I chose to study physics at university because it was a way to use math to understand the universe. In my fourth year I learned of magnetic resonance imaging and knew straight away that this was a research area I was interested in. It appealed to me for many reasons; the physics is interesting and complicated, the day-to-day implementation of the theory can save lives and there are new technologies being developed daily.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
I loved David Attenborough when I was little and watched a lot of his documentaries. His enthusiasm about animals and insects and the natural world was really contagious.


Nicole, age 6

Nicole Bailey
Masters student, Kramer Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A falconer
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Science
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I always had too many questions that I couldn’t find answers to
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My mum 🙂 She had endless patience for my constant barrage of questions and a wealth of medical knowledge that never ceased to amaze me


Heather, age 5

Dr. Heather Gainforth
Associate Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A lifeguard
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Phys-Ed and Creative Writing
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
Researchers who mentored me inspired me to become a researcher. They helped me to realize that research could be used to address real-world problems. Mentors from SCI Organizations inspired me to become an integrated knowledge translation researcher. They taught me that ‘there is nothing about us, without us’ and that by meaningfully involving people with SCI in research, we can create research that is relevant, useful, and used.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Miss Muriel Stacy from Anne of Green Gables. She was forward-thinking, innovative, kind, a strong mentor, and inquisitive. She valued education, hard work, and imagination. She took the time to see and foster others’ potential regardless of their background.


Lyndia, age 5

Dr. Lyndia Wu
Assistant Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A teacher
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Math
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
Early on, I was fascinated by how the universe works and strange concepts like black holes or parallel universes. Over time, my attention was attracted to more tangible problems around me, and I found biomedical research to be really meaningful to dive into.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Stephen Hawking; I was intrigued by his books.


Stacy, age 4

Dr. Stacy Elliott MD
Clinical Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A medical doctor, veterinarian or psychiatrist
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Biology
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
Grade 7 first aid class – all the things hidden under a wound. My parents were very creative and piqued my lifelong curiosity.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
Just the child “adventurers” in the science books, making discoveries.


Andrea, age 5

Dr. Andrea Bundon
Assistant Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
An archeologist, teacher or journalist
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
English
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I think I kind of fell into it rather than made a decision – I was convinced for a while that I wanted to be sports journalist. Then I realized that sociologist/social scientist combined everything I wanted into one job – I get to discover, teach, interview people and write!
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
I don’t think I had a science hero per se but I loved hearing about women who were first in their field – I remember very clearly when Roberta Bondar became the first Canadian women in space. I thought that must have taken a lot of courage.


Stephanie, age 22

Dr. Stephanie Willerth
Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A scientist with her own lab
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Biology
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I was always fascinated by biology and living things. I was in high school when they cloned Dolly the sheep and I wrote my high school thesis on cloning and stem cells.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My science hero was Greg Graffin from the punk rock band Bad Religion when I was in high school because I didn’t know anyone at that time who had completed a science Ph.D. He has a Ph.D. in Zoology from Cornell University and it made me look into going to graduate school since you could both be in a band and study biology at the same time. Also, Ian Wilmut and his work cloning Dolly were also inspiring at the time.


Bonita, age 4

Dr Bonita Sawatzky
Associate Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A vet or a doctor.
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Math and science
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
Meeting my two UBC mentors, Dr Judith Hall and Dr Steve Tredwell who showed me the way to a career in medical research.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My physics teacher in high school who always ended each class with demonstrations of how physics and sports integrated. Thus, I love biomechanics!


Corree, age 5

Dr. Corree Laule
Associate Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
An astronaut or a veterinarian
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
math
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I think I’ve always been a scientist at heart! I grew up as an only child in a small town, so much of my early years were spent outside exploring the world around me. I would entertain myself using whatever I could find. My dad was a welder and using the tools in his workshop led to some pretty elaborate houses for my beetle and frog friends that I captured in the forest. Terrariums let me watch caterpillars turn into moths and “Sally” the salamander eat berries. My dad would also bring home magical toys from his work like magnets and metal filings for me to play with. Learning that science is all around us, all the time, fostered the curiosity and creativity I use every day in my job as a researcher.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My parents – they always encouraged me to ask questions and be creative. Also my high school math teacher Mr. Keeley, who pushed me when I needed it most!


Jacquelyn, age 5

Dr. Jacquelyn Cragg
Assistant Professor

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A Latin scholar
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Math & Latin
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
My first science fair in Grade 10
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
George Orwell- although not technically a scientist, he taught me a lot about scientific writing (eg. unclear prose, concreteness and clarity instead of vagueness).


Shana, age 11

Shana Irene George
Undergraduate student (UBC Sciences)

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a hairdresser when I was younger, but that’s really changed as I learned more about Science.
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
That would have to be Science.
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
I want to figure out ways to help people, also to be a good role model for others.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My science hero growing up was Albert Einstein, only because I didn’t know much women in science but as I learned more, Marie Currie became my favourite.


Shaima Hourani
Undergrad Research Assistant, Tetzlaff Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A naturalist
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Science
What inspired you to become a scientist/clinician?
As a child, I spent most of my time exploring the mountains around my house looking for different insects and plants with my cousins. I was also constantly watching science shows, such as National Geographic. Both of which, cultivated a passion in me towards studying nature and animals.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My parents, as they encouraged me from a young age to be curious, and have always supported and pushed me to challenge myself.


Dr. Leili Ghazi Zadeh
Postdoctoral Fellow, Shadgan Lab

What did you think you wanted to be when you were a child?
A medical doctor
What was your favourite subject in elementary school?
Biology
What inspired you to become a scientist / clinician?
My passion for biology started where I was so interested to know more about the cellular and molecular interactions of biomaterials and human or animal tissues especially dogs and horses where I grow up in a small town with so many pets.
Who was your science hero when you were little, and why?
My biology teacher