My name is Kavina Sivasothy and I recently finished my final year in the Biomedical Sciences program at Ryerson University. I was the Vice President of Community Development for a student group called Association of Undergraduate Women in Science. Growing up, there were not many women scientists that I could look up to and so when I came across this student group, I was all for their initiative which is to advocate and encourage women in the STEM field.
How would you describe your program to someone who knows nothing about it?
Ryerson’s Biomedical Sciences program explores in-depth the structure and function of cells and the relevant health-care issues like diseases, treatments and technological advancements in medicine. The program investigates relevant medical concerns like how cells become cancerous, how stem cells are used to treat diseases, how micro-organisms cause diseases, how our immune system can mistakenly attack our own cells and much more. The knowledge I gained throughout this program made me appreciate how intricate our bodies are.
What is your favourite thing about your program?
One of my favourite things about this program is that I am able to apply the knowledge in real life. For example, during my third year, I took a course on viruses. We learned how viruses cause HIV, herpes, the flu, food poisoning, etc., and the treatments available for these diseases. In this course, I also learned about the Coronavirus family and amid the pandemic that we are currently experiencing, I was able to apply the background knowledge on this virus. I love that I am able to apply what I’ve learned to what we are experiencing in our lives right now.
Another one of my favourite things about this program is the critical thinking skills I’ve gained through my courses and labs. I have performed several experiments where I’ve had to create 20-page reports that analyzed and interpreted quantitative and qualitative outcomes from the experiment. Although the work is meticulous and draining at times, the critical thinking and analyzing skills that I have gained make it worthwhile as I am able to apply these skills in my everyday life.
What is your favourite thing about Ryerson?
My favourite thing about Ryerson is that you get to experience the bright and lively downtown life. Within walking distance, you can go to Eaton Centre, Harbourfront, CN Tower, Kensington market and so much more. There are so many things to do downtown where you can create new adventures with your friends which leave long-lasting memories. In addition to that, I am a huge foodie and love trying new things. Every corner you turn, there are a variety of cuisines that you are able to try. You’ll never get bored because there are endless things to do and try downtown.
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far in your program?
My typical answer to this question would be that I was able to be on the Dean’s List throughout my four years. Although this is an amazing accomplishment, one of my greatest accomplishments is not like the traditional answer; it’s learning that my academics do not define me. During my first year in university, I struggled to adapt from high school. I had a lot of anxiety about doing poorly, so I put my all into my academics and made no time for myself. I did very well, which some may count as a success (and it is), but I drained myself so much. I was so focused in school that I missed out on trying to make new friends, going to first-year events, joining school clubs and exploring opportunities around me. I thought that my academics defined the person who I am, but in my opinion, your experiences and your skills speak volumes. During my third and fourth year I tried putting myself out there more, which I am grateful for because I was able to meet so many inspiring people.
What has been your favourite class that you’ve taken?
My favourite class that I took was Immunology. In this course, I learned about the structure and organization of the immune system, how our bodies fight against bacteria, viruses and toxins and the basis for immunity. It was interesting to learn about how complex and intricate our immune system is and the mechanisms behind some diseases. However, it wasn’t just the material that made it my favourite class; it was the passion and interest from the professor (shoutout to Dr. Emily Agard). I appreciate the way that Dr. Agard delivered the course because it wasn’t just about testing the material through examinations, but she also incorporated unique assignments to test your knowledge. The assignments allowed the students to tap into their creative minds which I found was a different way of assessing material that I appreciated greatly.
Has your perception of your program changed from the beginning of first year to now?
Definitely! I came into the program thinking that I was all on my own in terms of academia. That is a popular notion amongst students because there are over 150 students in the program which is not what most students are used to. Since the classes are larger, I felt that I couldn’t ask for help from professors. However, this could be far from the truth. I learned that professors want and encourage students to drop by during their office hours to ask for the extra help.
What is your advice for future students in your program?
It is OKAY to fail! This was something that I struggled with, however, throughout the past four years, I have learned to not be so hard on myself and accept failure. Success to me is when you fail and you’re able to pick yourself up and try again. Another piece of advice that I wish someone told me was to have a balance between school and your social life. Put your all into school, but also make sure that you make time for yourself, family, friends and work. I struggled with making time for anything besides school. After my first semester, I realized that by not making time for myself, I completely drained myself. Lastly, NETWORK! This is something I regret not doing in the first two years of my program. I was so focused in school; I did not join school clubs or go to networking events. These two are critical to make new friends, expose yourself to your peers and professors and make connections that could be beneficial.