The Amgen Scholars Canada Program gives opportunities to undergraduate students in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — to work in real research laboratories at the University of Toronto. They gain hands-on experience and contribute to cutting-edge research, all while receiving mentorship from some of the leading scientists in biomedicine and biotechnology.
University Professor Molly Shoichet welcomed McMaster University undergraduate Allysia Chin into her lab as part of this program, and she’s thrilled to be part of the spark of a young researcher’s early career.
“When you’re first in the lab, I think it’s just like being a bit of a puppy dog exploring snow for the first time,” says Shoichet. “I mean, how exciting is it to learn about something and then do it? And then make it happen? At least for me, that’s really exciting.”
Chin is just as excited to participate in the program, with both personal and professional reasons why the Shoichet Lab was a great fit for her goals.
“Specifically in the Shoichet Lab, I really loved how interdisciplinary it is,” says Chin. “We have chemists, we have engineers, we have biologists. And I really like being able to take those different parts of science, come up with a question, and be able to answer that question using engineering.”
But beyond the interdisciplinary nature of her labmates, the particular combination of her supervisors was also important to Chin.
“My two main mentors are Laura Smith, a PhD student, and Dr. Shoichet, and I think first and foremost, being mentored by women in STEM is something that’s very, very important to me,” says Chin.
Women in STEM face unique challenges that can negatively impact their careers, and underrepresentation of women in the highest ranks can make it particularly difficult to find strong female mentorship. Systemic bias also creates a gender gap in federal research grants, making it even more urgent to encourage young women to stay in STEM.
“I really want to be a great mentor, for especially young black girls,” adds Chin. “Growing up not really seeing people that look like me or that talk like me in that space was a little discouraging.
“But in 30 years, a young black girl who looks like me can say, I see someone who looks like me and talks like me in that space, and so I can do that, too. I think that’s something that really motivates me in science, and also in my other endeavours.”