Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Student Perspective: Conferences in Canada

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Geology, I was lucky enough to find jobs abroad in some pretty neat places. I assisted with research at a biological station in Costa Rica, taught English in Spain, and then worked on the science investments team in the New Zealand government. I chose this program because I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my foot in the door in the professional world here in Canada.

It was an adjustment being a student again, but on the positive side there are student perks! This semester I have benefited from health and dental care, student prices and discounts. Furthermore, I am taking advantage of the opportunity to go to conferences. I have been lucky enough to attend 3 conferences since September, as well as a WISE event https://wisesudbury.ca/, Ladies Learning to Code workshop https://www.canadalearningcode.ca/chapters/sudbury/ and even a luncheon talk about sustainability in businesses http://www.greeneconomynorth.ca/. I’m here to learn as much as I can, and you need to get yourself out there to get noticed.

Science Communicators and Writers of Canada conference

Since we did this in our very first week of classes, it was a bit overwhelming, but I personally found the whole conference quite useful as a great overview of science communication (although many colleagues didn’t share my same enthusiasm). There were lots of sessions looking at all kinds of science debates and topics and they had some strong panelists (I love hearing my old professor, Jeremy Kerr, speak http://sciencewriters.ca/Past-Program-2017).

Canadian Science Policy Conference

I chose to attend this conference because the program looked jam-packed with interesting science topics, speakers, and panels. I was keen to learn more about science policy in Canada since my only real experience was with the New Zealand government, so I was curious to see how things were done here. It was challenging going by myself to a conference where I didn’t know anyone, but I managed to chat with some interesting people and had a lot of business cards by the end of the 3 days. I got to experience a Science Slam, attended speeches by Mona Nemer and Kirsty Duncan, and I enjoyed my 3 course dinner while Julie Payette gave her controversial speech http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/julie-payette-climate-divine-intervention-analysis-wherry-1.4383734.

This was a one-day intensive conference run by Let’s Talk Science, which looked at the future of science education here in Canada. This was really interesting (and swanky) and I got to talk with educational professionals from all over the country. Working as an English teacher and running children’s programs for over 10 years, I have always been interested in how we are working to make Canada one of the best education systems in the world. I did find a lot of the content quite obvious (“if we had more passionate teachers our students would do better”...duh!) but the attendees were really dedicated to the mission and the positive atmosphere was contagious.

My advice to anyone entering this program is make the most of it. It is only one year, and it goes by quickly, so get out there, talk to people, learn as much as you can, and listen to the wise words of the science communicators around you.  

- Brigid Prouse


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