Ball and stick render of a protein molecule.
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A Future Science Leader Looks Back

This year, Science World's unique, after-school STEAM-enrichment program Future Science Leaders celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Join us in the coming months as we share stories from alumni about how FSL impacted their lives. Perhaps you or someone you know could be a future science leader!

In 2013, early in his Grade 10 year, Sam Kaser contemplated life after high school. He wasn't sure which post-secondary path to take. "But I knew I loved science," he says. “I’d already completed Grade 11 Physics in the summer because I didn’t want to wait.”

One day at school, a colourful poster caught his eye: a promotional ad for Science World’s Future Science Leaders. This weekly after-school program introduces high school students to experts and professionals working in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art & design and math).

“It was a perfect for me,” Sam says. “My parents have a lot of respect for science, but don’t have scientific backgrounds. I didn’t have a clear, realistic picture of what it meant to work in STEM.”

Fact-finding

Today, Sam is a chemistry graduate student in the Ortony Lab at MIT. He says applying to FSL was one of the best decisions his teenage-self made.

“FSL is the closest you can get to actually doing advanced science as a high school student. I got firsthand experience and was able to determine exactly what kind of work I enjoyed.”

By his second year of FSL, Sam was cultivating interests in both reproductive medicine and botany. For his major research project, he explored the rate mosses develop sex structures in relation to their exposure to sunlight. He was curious about whether stressful conditions like dehydration prompted moss to reproduce.

And though his findings were inconclusive, Sam says the real value comes from the “humbling” lessons the process provided. “Doing real research in a real lab, I became much more aware of my practical limitations.”

He also became much more aware of his real passion.

Lab Work Makes the Dream Work

It was during an FSL chemistry session where participants used sodium carbonate and dichloromethane to extract caffeine from tea when Sam realized that “the most intimate exploration of the natural world is through chemistry.”

After that day, he found himself thinking, “Yeah, I could do work like this every day.”

And now he does.

At MIT, with his lab advisor Professor Julia Ortony, Sam studies how water dynamics affect protein formation on the surface of a rigid self-assembling nanostructure.

His research will lead to biophysical-engineering contributions in both medicine and sustainability.

And while at 25 he still doesn’t know his precise career path, he does know he wants to work in sustainable energy. “There isn't a lot of political will do address environmental problems. That’s why we need scientific solutions.”

He says that without FSL, he would have entered university much less prepared. “I’m really grateful for that program. It’s just a wonderful opportunity for students.”

A New Future

Today, FSL sessions look a little different from Sam’s days, with masks and hand sanitizer featuring more largely. But the mission of the program has never been clearer.

From Jake Mawer, FSL’s Year 2 program specialist: “We’re continuing our goal of developing leadership in the scientific community here in BC at a time when we need it most. But we are also providing opportunities for students to pursue their passions, make friends and a network of peers, and most importantly, have some fun in the new normal, to make the most of their last years of youth.”


Do you know a Future Science Leader?

Registration for our 2021/2022 program opens in February. To learn more and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, click here!