‘It’s Opened Up a Lot of Doors For Me’

Studying science is great, but hands-on experience and mentoring are even better. For one young woman in STEM, it's made a big difference.

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Real-world research and lab experience can be hard to come by as an undergraduate student, but chemical biology student Allysia Chin scored an incredible opportunity for mentorship and experience through the Amgen Scholars Canada Program.

She’s in her fifth year at McMaster University, but the program brought her to Professor Molly Shoichet’s lab at the University of Toronto, alongside other scholars who also came to Toronto from across Canada. The placement is giving her practical experience while she contributes to research on a platform that could help study diseases at the bench by better replicating the biology that happens in the body.

Chin has been involved in the synthesis of various components for the platform, but she also performs experiments that help answer questions about the mechanisms behind aggressive diseases.

“Being in the lab is definitely important in terms of gaining experience,” says Chin. “So for me, enrolling in a co-op opportunity and being able to navigate my own way through science has been something that I’ve been really fortunate to do.”

Getting that experience gives Chin a taste of what science is all about: the joy of discovery and the ability to make a difference.

“Throughout my degree, something that I’ve been missing is a little bit of innovation,” adds Chin. “Science is knowledge, and engineering is applying that science to answer a question and contribute to society. A lot of times people forget that we have medicine because we have science, and so for me, I think being able to bridge the two is super important.”

Beyond the experience, Chin has gotten to work with practicing scientists in her field. She’s grateful for the mentorship by leading women in STEM.

“For me, being in the lab, being mentored by great women and great scientists, and being welcomed into the community has shown me how important it is for me to continue on a career in STEM,” says Chin.

Those connections are giving career guidance that will help her long after graduation, including advice on how to apply to graduate school or medical school.

“It’s opened up a lot of doors for me,” says Chin. “I’ve been able to expand my network, in terms of senior scientists, not only in academia but also in industry. And taking me under their wing so that I can do the same thing, too, is something that’s really important.”

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Allysia Chin is a fifth-year student at McMaster University majoring in Chemical Biology. Recently, she completed her 8-month co-op term in the laboratory of Professor Molly Shoichet at the University of Toronto, where she used a chemically engineered hydrogel to investigate an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma. Her outstanding work has landed her oral and poster presentations at several conferences throughout her work-term, including the world-renowned Biomedical Engineering Society Conference in Philadelphia.

Throughout the summer, she was also awarded the prestigious Amgen Scholarship, where she presented her work in the Shoichet Lab at the Amgen Scholars US Symposium at UCLA. Chin is also an avid promoter of the co-op program at McMaster, and is an active co-op mentor for incoming co-op students seeking research opportunities.

In addition to her aspirations as a scientist, Chin is actively interested in empowering communities and embracing togetherness via global/public health and community outreach. Prior to starting the Amgen Scholars Canada Program in June, she went to Honduras where she assisted Honduran community members build public health infrastructure for families living in rural areas. She is also the support chair executive member of the Black Student Association at McMaster, which is a club aiming to provide a safe and welcoming environment for Black students on campus.

Research2Reality is a groundbreaking initiative that shines a spotlight on world-class scientists engaged in innovative and leading edge research in Canada. Our video series is continually updated to celebrate the success of researchers who are establishing the new frontiers of science and to share the impact of their discoveries with the public.