Future Science Leaders presented by Acuitas (FSL), Science World's after-school program, connects teens to like-minded peers and STEAM experts. Our partners make FSL possible: Acuitas; Boeing; RBC Foundation; AMGEN; STEMCELL Technologies; and NumerixS Quant.
A few years ago, high school students Mariem and Tristen applied for Science World’s after-school program Future Science Leaders presented by Acuitas (FSL).
Mariem, envisioning a university trajectory toward neurology and medicine, wanted reassurance she’d chosen the right path.
Tristen, on the other hand, lacked a scientific focus, and hoped to find her passion in FSL.
In the end, through the intensive weekly sessions that introduced them to diverse STEAM fields and experts through hands-on activities and projects, both girls found their answer.
But they also found something unexpected: a new best friend.
We caught up with Tristen and Mariem from their respective new university cities of Edmonton and Victoria for a conversation about developing a lifelong network of like-minded peers in FSL—with a lot of belly laughs along the way.
Two Peas in Mendel’s Pod
Tristen (T): I feel like we’ve been friends forever.
Mariem (M): It’s been over four years.
T: Living in different provinces, COVID has kept us apart. But we can just pick up right where we left off.
M: We met on the first day of FSL. We sat at the same table.
T: And we instantly clicked.
M: I was used to doing chem labs in high school with groups of people who didn't really like science. Honestly, that made it pretty boring.
T: Yes! I’d get so excited in biology and science class, and wouldn’t really receive the same shared enthusiasm I received from Mariem.
M: It was just like, “Okay, lab done.” But in FSL, we both wanted to go deeper. The end of the lab would sort of just be the beginning. Like, what does this result mean? What can we do with this result and how can we apply it to other experiments or questions?
T: FSL was my first clear example that STEM isn’t just a few classes you take in high school. It’s a way of thinking and being and collaborating. And seeing other people my age excited about science encouraged me to show my own enthusiasm.
M: If we got stuck, we’d bounce ideas off each other and get really creative.
T: It gave me so much motivation to keep pursuing these challenging topics.
M: Right. For example, I’ve always been interested in the brain and planned to study medicine, but I didn’t know if I would actually like research in university.
T: Whereas I knew I loved science, but I had no idea what I wanted to study after high school. I’d read that FSL was like a buffet of almost every single niche area, so I hoped to find the field I’d magically click with.
M: And I had so much fun in Year 1 that I chose to apply for the Year 2 Research stream.
T: For me, I chose the university program I'm in today because of one of the guest speakers we saw in Year 1. She gave a presentation on biochemistry and molecular biology, which I didn’t know much about. And I remember her talking about plasmids and DNA, and I found it so fascinating and I got so excited, I was like, “That’s it. That’s my niche. That’s what I want to learn about for the rest of my life!”
M: The Research stream prepared me for now. I learned how to do real scientific inquiry and write a proper report. And I actually just applied for a research internship with a mentor at University of Victoria who’s agreed to work with me. I’m hoping to study brain injury and illness.
T: And I literally just wrote an exam about plasmids and DNA! And I was thinking, “I’m so happy I did FSL.”
The Best Medicine
M: For all the knowledge and skills it gives you, I’d recommend it. But honestly some of the best memories I have are just ones of us laughing.
T: We did know how to have a great time in every session.
M: We’d find things super funny that wouldn’t be funny to people who didn’t like science.
T: My favourite memory is from one of our Physics sessions—and I don’t even like Physics that much! (laughs)
M: This is my favourite memory too.
T: Vincent was our instructor who was a PhD candidate from UBC working at TRIUMF and CERN, and he was teaching us how to build a hydraulic system from very basic materials that would enable a gadget to move with a balloon.
M: And as our object flew away, we couldn't stop laughing (laughs). It’s hard to explain why it was so funny.
T: But we were having the best time of our lives.
M: And we stayed close after the program ended.
T: I entered university in Alberta, and Mariem had one more year of high school.
M: It was hard to see each other during the pandemic, but we finally met up for coffee before I left for UVic.
T: Yes! And I remember you talking about what you were nervous about going to university.
M: It was really nice to be able to hear from someone who’d been through it.
T: It was wild to me that she was saying exactly the same things I was feeling the year before, about moving to a new city, and starting a new program.
M: I’ve always been curious and asked a lot of questions, seeing what I can build with what little I have. And I think Tristen is like that too.
T: I’d recommend FSL to anyone, even if they’re not sure they want a career in it. I think people often overlook how much collaboration can improve the actual process of science. I definitely didn’t expect to meet friends I’m as close with now. And I wouldn’t ever expect to meet a friend like Mariem.
Are You a Future Science Leader?
Grow a lifelong network of friends in our 2022/2023 program year.