I suppose traveling back in time though the memories in my head will help me gain perspective on the present. I know I did not plan to be an educator. I did not plan to be an Assistant Professor. I did not plan to be a researcher.
Many years ago I attended the University of Toronto for my undergraduate studies. I wanted to be an Orthodontist. My father was a welder, I liked the idea of working with metals. Malleable metals. Different gauges. Wire cutters. Put them on some teeth, tighten them up and watch your teeth move. Actually seeing progress – the perfect smile. I enrolled in sciences and my specialist was Biology. I volunteered at the orthodontic office by my home. I was well on my way to fulfilling my dream and going to Dental school.
I was busily taking courses to fulfill my degree requirements and found myself in one course that changed the path of my life. In the third year of undergrad I took a course called Marine Biology and there was a research component that took the whole class to Barbados to conduct research at the McGill Research Institute. I was studying ghost crabs, and my lab partner and I stayed up all night catching and observing them. The humidity and salty sea water would rust the lab equipment. The cook whipped up the best seafood for our meals. When the moon was in the crescent phase it hung in the sky like the smile of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. Our first night we caught a few crabs and kept them in a pail over night only to find a war zone in the morning. Tattered bodies and lost limbs. We learned they were a territorial species a little too late. The purple band of hair that I had through my bangs faded in the extreme sun within four days. Professor Dudley Williams lectured on the science of the tides. I loved everything about this.
I’m straying from my original dream…
When I returned home I enrolled in another research based Biology course studying fish behaviour in convict cichlids – Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum. People would say ‘you sit around and observe fish…. behaving?’ Indeed. Perhaps they thought this research was a curiosity I was satisfying, but animal behavioural research helps us understand how to protect these species from climate change, habitat destruction and environmental concerns. We understand their patterns, their mating, their system at such an intricate level – it’s the best way for us to know how to protect them and gives us new perspectives to critically think of ourselves . We learn from them. This I learned from the best Biology Professor I ever had, Dr. Daryl Gwynne.
My mind wanders…dental school is fading…
While doing this research I realized that the public understanding of science and different avenues of science exploration was underappreciated and misunderstood, well not all aspects but a little in the fish study department. So, I went to Queen’s University in Northern Ireland to study Science Communication and how the public engages with scientific phenomena. But in doing my thesis work for that Masters in Science, I realized it really starts with young learners who are molded into critical thinkers who become caring citizens and members of the local and global community. They appreciate scientific research, seek knowledge and understanding from various perspectives, and can enact change if need be.
Orthodontics is lost…sorry Dad…
So I went to York University and did my PhD in Science Education. I wanted to start with young minds, expose them to some amazing science and nurture their engagement and motivation. I encouraged them to focused on caring for their environment and investigating socio-scientific issues that were personal to their lives and their communities. I’m pretty proud of the research I did, and indebted to Dr. Steve Alsop for guiding me. (Actually, I have crossed paths with the greatest academic mentors ever– I’m blessed). My research was a visual journey connecting science and community. Once I finished my doctorate I knew Education was the discipline I wanted to be in. And here I am…. learning everyday and dreaming up new goals.
My baby sister made me this cake when I passed my Oral Comps Exam.
It’s nice to celebrate the small accomplishments along the way with a slice of home baked cake.