SBC Alumni: Q&A with Eunice Linh You

What are you doing now?

I am a first year Honours Health Science Program at Marianopolis College. Currently, I act as a mentor for several teams from my high school participating at the regional science projects. I am also a judge.

What motivated you to participate in the SBCC?

All throughout my life, I’ve regarded daily personal experiences and the real world context as a way of learning more science. As a kid, I was always the curious type who asked too many “whys”… “Why is the grass green? Why is the water wet?” I’m much older now and science has given me the answer to those questions. But there are, and always will be, unanswered “whys” inside me.

I’d say trying to understand this fascinating, intriguing chaotic world with science is what drew me to science so much. In particular, the SBCC is unique in the way that it allows you to participate in the fore-front of cutting-edge research alongside incredibly passionate scientists. As an aspiring researcher in neuroscience, there is no greater way to immerse myself in this career choice than to experience it myself.

Comment avez-vous vécu le processus de compétition? / Describe what the competition process was like for you.

I started designing the experimentation early in the summer, while searching for a scientist interested in my ideas. It took me several weeks before finding my amazing mentor, Liam Crapper. Under his guidance, I reworked the project idea until all the details were worked out and then I submitted it to the judges at the SBCC.  Once I received the feedback from the judges on the proposal, I began my research.

Depending on the work that had to be done for each phase of the project, I would stay anywhere from a few hours a day to the entire day. For months, I worked on my project, a stem cell transplantation treatment for Parkinson’s disease patients. They were some of the most memorable, challenging, frustrating and fulfilling days of my life. And every day I would leave the lab, I would go home and continue thinking about my project, looking for ways to improve it.

Months later, the competition rolled around. I’d prepared my speech and rehearsed it countless times. My lab book was teeming with tables and data charts, my binders overflowing with the research I did. Admittedly, it was nervewrecking. But I can genuinely say the judges were extremely kind and qualified for their job. They really listened, asked pertinent questions and offered relevant recommendations.  I also found everybody, from the coordinators of the SBCC to the other participants, very friendly. It was incredible fun – you’ll see for yourself!

How has your participation helped you beyond high school?

By allowing me to contribute to science with my own research, my experience at the SBCC unquestionably strengthened my interest in studying and pursuing a career in neurosciences. Although I have always been interested in that field, had it not been for my participation at the SBCC, I would have never had the opportunity to gain such hands-on experience.

Describe your favourite aspect of participating in the SBCC.

It’s hard to pick, but it would have to be the months leading up to the competition. In my opinion, those were the months that the competition is truly defined by. It was in the lab working on my project that I discovered I have a good sense of intuition for research and would love to do it as a career. Being selected to participate at the competition days is simply an added bonus!

What advice do you have for this year’s participants?

At this point, you’ve done most of the work. You’ve spent months designing and redesigning a project, struggling to fix the problems, puzzling over your results, celebrating victories. There’s not much left to do now but to present your ideas and show the judges everything you did that year. Don’t be nervous. Think of it this way – they may have read your paper and may be well versed in the research you are doing. But you’re the only one that knows your project the best out of everybody. This is your time to shine and convince everybody why your work is important.

Don’t memorize your presentation – you have a board or a PowerPoint for a reason. Instead, concentrate on the importance of your results, and the novelty of your results. Make sure you know all the relevant research going on in your field so that you can answer questions if ever you are asked. This is very important because judges want to know what you know and your ability to think critically on the spot. You may even need to problem solve or hypothesize during the judging and that’s completely fine. They don’t expect you to know everything, but you should be well educated on your project.

Not only do should you practice speaking to the judges, but talk about your project to anybody from parents to children to professors and other scientists. This is something you’ve been working on for months and you deserve to share your experience. Maybe you might even inspire others to join you. But you need to know your project like the back of your hand and the more you talk about it, the more comfortable you will get.

Be presentable, first impressions count. Be polite and courteous. Be engaging (you’re not a textbook!)

But most importantly, and this sounds cliched, enjoy yourself! The science fair is hands down the greatest experience of my life and looking back, the prizes did not matter as much as the experience did. You’re going to be surrounded by other students coming from different cities, different provinces, different countries, and all greatly passionate in their love for science. There’s a lot of new friends to be made – trust me. You’ll be presenting to world class scientists. Simply having them judge your project and give you their advice is a huge honour in itself. And the experience gained is invaluable. ENJOY IT and GOOD LUCK !