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Why We Give: Julia Zaks & Robert Chin

Why We Give features our amazing and generous donors. They share why they support our non-profit charitable organization. Together, we help ignite curiosity in the next generation!

Since 2013, scientist Julia Zaks has worked at Agilent Technologies, a company in the San Francisco Bay Area that makes instruments for scientific research.

Last year, she made a big decision: it was time to take an educational leave from her job.

“The work I do involves a lot of processes that are still not scientifically well understood,” she explains.

She worked in mass spectrometry, an analytical technique used to identify and weigh molecular compounds. Specifically, she researched ways to convert liquid samples—like blood, urine or stream water—into charged ions that a mass spectrometer can analyze.

“I had gotten to the point where, in order to learn more, I needed to talk to people in fields different from mine."

She accepted a position as a research associate in an atmospheric chemistry lab at UBC. In July 2020, she and her husband Robert and their 3 young children relocated to Vancouver.

Upon arriving in Vancouver, Julia and Robert saw The World Needs More Nerds campaign and learned their local non-profit science centre might close permanently. Immediately, they donated a generous gift.

Julia recalls past visits to the dome with her family during vacation: “The exhibits at Science World have enhanced my worldview," she says. "They helped me understand things in a way I hadn’t fully understood before. And if I spent more time playing there, I'd understand even more.

"That's all the reason I need. Donating money to help keep it open wasn’t a hard decision.”

Common Knowledge

“Times are challenging now,” Julia says. “But, if you look back 100 years, or 500 years, there is a lot that makes me grateful to be alive today and not at many points in the past.”

But science and technology on its own, Julia emphasizes, is not enough. What the public as a whole understand and believe is just as important.

Julia thinks places like Science World can play a role in figuring out how to communicate complex challenges and solutions, making STEM more accessible.

“It’s difficult to believe something I don't understand,” Julia says. “So, if I can get to a point where I understand how something came to be known, then my world view is enhanced.”

Seeing a diagram of the Bohr atom as a child sparked Julia's drive to understand the unknown. She became very curious about atomic orbitals and fixated on how they can take on different shapes.

“It just boggled my mind!” she laughs.

Since then, her quest to understand as much as possible about the natural world has taken her many places. Including Vancouver, and science museums.

“I want to live in a scientifically literate society," she says. "In order to act for the overall good, like with public health, we need to communicate in a way people will actually understand.”

Science and technology give her hope because it's "one of the few things in life that is cumulative."

“You don’t have to solve a problem perfectly in order to make real progress. And just because a problem is hard, doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. Once you know something, you keep knowing it. And knowledge grows.”

Science World Needs More People Like Julia and Robert.

Help fund the future and the next generation of problem solvers, wonder seekers, world changers and nerds.