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We Should Embrace the Unknown: An Interview with a Future Science Leader

Future Science Leaders (FSL) is Science World’s after-school program for teens. As we celebrate the resilience and brilliance of our facilitators and students, we also want to highlight that our work is made possible by our generous partners, including: Boeing; RBC Foundation; Connor, Clark & Lunn Financial Group; STEMCELL Technologies; and NumerixS Quant.

For as long as Nicole Rzhemovskiy can remember, her father has encouraged her to pursue engineering. He was an aerospace engineer in Ukraine, as was his father before him. His concern about the gender imbalance in STEM followed him from there to here, Vancouver, BC, where he works as a database architect. Nicole remembers him saying that imbalances like these in society are not sustainable because they “push ideas from whole groups of people under the rug.”

Since childhood, Nicole has pursued all kinds of science in an attempt to address this imbalance. In 2018, after graduating from high school and completing the Future Science Leaders program at Science World, she began her Combined Honours degree in Chemistry and Math at UBC.

Today, she’s come to TELUS World of Science for the first of many chats about how Future Science Leaders guided her through many important learning experiences. The goal of our conversations is to let more people know about the program and either apply (if they’re a high school student) or donate money to help an underserved youth attend.

Nicole tells me, “For a very long time, I thought of science as the ‘ultimate truth.’ Like, to study science was to find out exactly what the world is.”

But Future Science Leaders, with its collaborative investigations and research led by a diversity of instructors from all STEAM fields, encouraged her to pose question after question, ultimately transforming her perspective.

And, at first, it was difficult.

“When I started getting ideas that science is more of a collaborative effort to keep renewing our theories about the world, I was like…‘Oh, no.’” She chuckles a bit. “It’s hard to gulp down that we might never know some things. We will never know the ultimate, perfect truth because that doesn’t really exist. It’s the process that matters most. I learned that in Future Science Leaders.”

When she chose her Combined Honours degree in Math and Chemistry, she blended her first love--mathematics--with her future goal: to change the world for the better. Or, as she puts it, “to undo some of the problems we have right now. To make someone’s life a bit better.”

For this motivation, she has her grandmother to thank, who pursued medicine in Ukraine and eventually became a cardiologist. Nicole tells me, “I’ve never met anyone more proud about what they did with their life...Babushka turns 87 on Saturday.” At that age, Nicole wants to feel the same amount of happiness about her own choices.

“I was thinking about my career and what I want to do with my life…I thought about why I was in this world. At the end of my life, when I am looking back, what will make me most proud and satisfied with what I have done? The answer is, giving back to the world. And science is the ultimate way to innovate.”

Nicole believes Future Science Leaders is a program worth supporting because of how it helps introduce girls to topics in STEAM that high school simply doesn’t have the time or resources to cover.

“It’s increasingly important to encourage girls and women into the sciences. Right now, my friends and I are all stressing out about midterms, but when I stop to think about the future and what we’re needed for, it feels so much better. Everyone in society is needed. That’s a very inspiring and empowering message to send to not only girls but to everyone in the whole world.”

Future Science Leaders at Science World has been made possible by the generous support of our donors.

Since 2011, this program has inspired students from across the Lower Mainland to continue pursuing STEAM long after the program ends. Learn more here.