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Opening the Door for Careers in STEM Subjects

Opening the Door is Science World's youth networking event that helps connect young people with relevant science leaders and industry professionals to better prepare them for careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. These events are a fun and casual way to learn about networking and meet like-minded mentors and peers. They are also a wonderful place to learn more about an interesting profession or field of research.

The evening opens up with a panel conversation between the mentoring scientists and then a brief discussion about networking and how to navigate networking events. After that, participants are encouraged to strike up a conversation with the scientists and find out more about the fields that interest them.

At our next Opening the Door event, we are widening the scope to include many mentor fields and backgrounds. This is a great event for an open-minded young person who is interested in many things and would like guidance and an opportunity to learn from established professionals. 

Dr Ninan Abraham, BSc, MSc, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia and is an example of the kind of mentor scientists present at Opening the Door. We had the pleasure of interviewing him prior to our October 22, 2014 event:

SW: Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am a professor at a university and run a biomedical research lab looking at how the immune system functions against certain viruses and bacteria. I also study how cell growth can go wrong to develop immune cancers. Finally, I teach undergraduate and graduate students and enjoy that a lot.

I was raised in Singapore but came to Canada to go to university and have stayed since. I trained in several labs in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and San Francisco, earning my Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degrees before getting my position as Associate Professor at UBC.

SW: How did you feel about science in high school?

I loved biology and physics. My science teacher seemed to recognize something in me and mentored me. In high school, I joined the Science Fair team and presented the project as I was the best orator on the team.

SW: What is the best advice you were ever given?

Once when asked what I wanted to be and I said a “scientist”, an elementary school teacher told me that there was no such career! I believe I went ahead pursuing what interested me most despite that and succeeded. Although it was bad advice, it may have motivated me in a perverse way. The best advice I got was that no matter what you do, you are always being judged so put your best foot forward—no half measures ever.

SW: What do you love about your job?

I love that research in immunology is about discovery and testing the unknown, with possible benefits for patients. I also derive a lot from engaging bright minds—whether they be other researchers or young trainees of all levels.

All mentors in attendance October 22: 

  • Anikó Takács-Cox, PhD, MBA—Manager, Sector Development, Genome British Columbia
  • Dr Ninan Abraham, BSc, MSc, PhD—Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
  • Carolina Novoa—MSc Candidate in Genome Science and Technology, University of British Columbia
  • Danny Catt—SIS volunteer
  • Hing-kwong Ho—Industrial Instrument Mechanic, Rio Tinto Alcan
  • Ivan Beschastnikh—Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of British Columbia
  • Maia Kaplan—Research Assistant, Keeling Lab, University of British Columbia
  • Marc Sze  BMLSc—MSc PhD Candidate, Heart Lung Innovation Centre, St Paul’s Hospital
  • Andy Tsai—Reflex Wireless
  • Carol Lee—Reflex Wireless
  • Dr Clara Van Karnebeek—Genome BC
  • Nicoletta Fonseca—PhD Candidate, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia

Join us, for our free Opening the Door networking event for students in grades 10–12. This month's event is hosted by Genome British Columbia as part of our month-long science festival, Around the Dome.