Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022: Exceptional work happening on campus. Here we meet several students

February 11th, 2022
Top, l-r, Alison Walsh and Allanique (Ally) Hunter. Bottom: Josie Chisholm and Meredith Cudmore-Keating

Today, Friday, Feb. 11, we celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022. This global day marks the accomplishments of women in science, recognizing the critical role women and girls play in science and technology. It also shines a spotlight on what still needs to be done. At St. Francis Xavier University, numerous female faculty and students are doing exceptional work. Here, we’re pleased to profile and introduce you to a few StFX students. 

Alison Walsh

St. John’s, Newfoundland

BASc Honours Health, Fourth Year 


 

What sparked your interest in science? 

I have always been a very curious individual, and science was good at answering my many questions. I enjoy the process of studying the world around me, looking for patterns, and challenging myself.



Could you speak about what you’re studying at StFX and any future plans?

For my degree, I am concentrating in biomedicine and also studying the social determinants of health. So not only do I get to pursue my passion of science by focusing on chemistry and biology, but I also get to develop a broader understanding of factors that contribute to health through the study of psychology, philosophy, and sociology. I am currently applying for medical school and hope to someday become a physician working to help my community in Newfoundland. 



What about awards, accolades or accomplishments to mention?

I received the Scotia Scholar Award to fund my current research and honours project with Dr. Derrick Lee on the relationship between sleep abnormalities, circadian genes, and colorectal cancer. With Newfoundland having the highest rate of colorectal cancer in Canada, I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this research field. I also had the opportunity to present my psoriasis research with Dr. Proton Rahman to the Canadian Rheumatology Association in Victoria, BC, and the abstract was later published in the conference proceedings!



How important is it to encourage girls in science, and what can people do?

It is immensely important. As we work towards an equitable future where the population demographics are accurately represented in STEM positions, we need to be conscious of our personal biases and ensure they don’t discourage our next great scientists! Encourage your daughters, sisters, and other girls in your life to pursue their interests and help foster their self-confidence and determination!



Allanique Hunter

Nassau, Bahamas

Bachelor of Science, Biology


 

What sparked your interest in science? 

Initially I was in the health program and I wanted to be a nurse or doctor. After taking a couple of biology courses, I realized that I had more interest in the sciences than in health. I got really excited about learning biology, chemistry, and geology and I saw how a lot of my hobbies combined those studies as well.



Could you speak about what you’re studying at StFX and any future plans? 

Currently, I’m working with (biology professor) Dr. Russell Wyeth and exploring different methods of antifouling using ultraviolet-C radiation and graphene coatings prepared by our independent industry partner. I plan to continue working for the rest of this year (2022) until I’m ready to pursue my masters in either biological oceanography or environmental policy.



How important is it to encourage girls in science, and what can people do? 

Girls and women around the world have been disenfranchised and excluded from the world of science for years and that has left a really big gap in representation for girls in science. I appreciate the growing number of women studying science and I think it’s important for young girls to see that their options aren’t limited to jobs they may not be passionate about. Science bleeds into so many aspects of society and impacts so many things that encouraging girls to pursue something that can be so rewarding and validating is something, I feel, is so necessary. Women can do so many great things, we’re capable of so much and I think it’s important for girls to see that and be empowered to take up space in a world that has boxed us in for far too long.



Josie Chisholm 

Antigonish, NS

BSc Human Kinetics Honours in Biomechanics with Diploma in Engineering, Fourth Year


 

What sparked your interest in science?

I was that kid who was always asking random questions about the world. Having a background in science allows me to not only seek answers for my questions, but also have a better understanding of the what and how. 



Could you speak about what you’re studying at StFX and any future plans?

I chose/created my path based on what I was interested in, it just so happens I’m interested in two very different branches of science. In the future I would like to be able to utilize both my human kinetics and engineering backgrounds for a career of my choice 



What about awards, accolades or accomplishments to mention?

One major accomplishment that I am proud of, is doing what I’m doing academically while being a varsity athlete on the X-Women Hockey team. Seeing hard work pay off and being able to receive the USport All Canadian title for my years to date at StFX has also been a goal of mine that I am proud of. 



How important is it to encourage girls in science, and what can people do?

It is so important for women and girls to follow what THEY are interested in not what society might push you towards. As a female, set goals for yourself and work your hardest to reach them. Remove all doubt! 

 

Meredith Cudmore-Keating

Barrie, Ontario

BSc Honours in Mathematics, Fourth Year


 

What sparked your interest in science?

In high school, I always loved my science courses because I really liked discovering how processes and things around me worked. That feeling of understanding something that’s not obvious to the naked eye is what attracted me to science. When I came to StFX in first year as an undeclared BSc major, I was studying for my calculus exam and realized I was having fun. I liked doing it so much I thought that was a pretty good indication I should consider pursuing math further. 



Could you speak about what you’re studying at StFX and any future plans? 

I’m in my fourth year of the math program here at StFX. I have learned so much, and the department is amazing. As of now, I would like to do a master’s degree in math. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface with math, and I still want to learn more. I would also like to take some time off and travel if I can. 



What about awards, accolades or accomplishments to mention? 

This summer, I was awarded an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award which allowed me to do math research. It was a completely new experience unlike anything I’ve done before, and it was really enriching. Thanks to the funding for my project, I was able to win third best research project at the Science Atlantic Conference for my work: Distinguishing Number of Graphs Generated by the Symmetry Groups Dn. That is also thanks to a lot of help and support from my supervisors Dr. Stephen Finbow and Dr. Abdullah Al-Shaghay who have had a huge impact on how positive my research experience has been.



How important is it to encourage girls in science, and what can people do? 

It’s really important to encourage girls in science. The STEM fields should reflect the population of the world around us, and the best discoveries and decisions are made when there is a diverse group of people at a table. In terms of what people can do to promote that, I think that professors and educators have a really big role to play. It can be really disenfranchising if you encounter someone who doesn’t take you seriously or brushes you off, especially for women in a field that is male dominated. Professors who go out of their way to empower and encourage students can have a really significant impact on their students. 

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