Lauren Wotton recently completed her BSc in biology and was awarded the Jubilee Medal for Science at the 2018 spring convocation. During her undergraduate program, Lauren was involved in several biological research projects at UVic. Her future plans are to pursue a career as a pathologist in a medical laboratory.
What did you enjoy most about your BSc undergraduate degree program? I enjoyed all the aspects of my Bsc program; all the courses I took had interesting information and great professors. In particular, I enjoyed the courses that offered hands-on experience, especially the two directed studies I did in my fourth year, in which I worked on two very different biological research projects. In the Choy lab, I worked on a project that looked to improve enzyme replacement therapy for individuals with Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB. For my second directed studies, I worked in the Walter lab using QGIS and statistical analysis to analyze the relationship between breast cancer incidence and environmental factors including light at night, solar radiation and temperature. I also enjoyed the lab components of Human Anatomy and Introductory Microbiology.
What has been your greatest accomplishment in your education? My greatest accomplishment in my education was receiving the Jubilee Medal for Science, which is awarded to the undergraduate in the Faculty of Science with the highest graduating average. I was very surprised and honoured to receive this award and it was such a great ending to my degree.
As an undergraduate student, what challenges did you experience upon transitioning from lecture-based coursework to research in a lab? The biggest challenge transitioning to research in the lab was learning to accept that most things in practice do not work as we expect or hope they will, especially the first time. Initially, it was quite frustrating that many experiments needed to be optimized and reworked many times before reliable results could be achieved. However, working in a research lab has taught me that when things don’t work out, it’s an opportunity to learn something new and improve, not a failure.
What inspired you to get involved in research at UVic? I was inspired to get involved in research at UVic by a set of courses I took in my third year: Introductory Microbiology and Biotechnology. I really enjoyed the lab portion of microbiology, which drove me to gain further experience in a research setting. At the same time, I took Dr. Choy’s Biotechnology course, in which he talked a lot about the research that was going on in his lab. His research sounded really interesting to me so I approached him about getting involved. I ended up doing a Directed Studies in his lab the following year and then staying on for the summer.
What will you take away from your research experience at UVic? I will take away many things from my research experience at UVic including many practical laboratory skills, increased confidence, patience, and clarity in what I want in a future career. I also take with me many great memories.
Now that you’ve graduated with your BSc in Biology, what are your future aspirations and goals? In the future, I hope to work as part of a medical laboratory team, ideally as a pathologist. This fall I will be submitting numerous applications for medical schools (the first step in becoming a pathologist). I will also be applying for the Pathologists' Assistant Masters programs offered at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary as well as the Medical Laboratory Technology Science Diploma Program at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George. The success of these applications will determine the path I will take to achieve this goal of working in a medical laboratory in a small town in BC.
What advice would you give to students that are just starting out in their BSc degree programs at UVic? I would advise students starting out in their BSc degree to not be afraid to approach professors about opportunities to get involved in research. While many professors get volunteers to do simple tasks around the lab, like washing dishes, they also teach volunteers valuable lab skills that can be applied during a Directed Studies or Honours program. It’s a great opportunity to be exposed to a research environment that I was unaware of when starting out in my BSc degree, and one that I think students should take advantage of.