Human Biology: Student Testimonials

Nivetha Chandran

Majors: Human Biology and Health Studies - Population Health

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I have always been interested in the human body; especially in how internal and external factors impact our health. In high school, I researched about a variety of programs from various Ontario universities which focused on life sciences. I chose this program at the University of Toronto- Scarborough because it targets the biological and societal aspects of our world. This gives me an upper hand among other applicants for jobs and graduate studies because of the multidisciplinary knowledge I learn. This double major program provides a foundation in both the biological and healthcare concepts such as Microbiology, Human Physiology, Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases; thus making me a versatile candidate for diverse graduate programs like Medical School, Public Health and Biology. The UTSC admissions office, Get Started program and Academic Advising and Career Centre were the pillars assisting me in questions and concerns I had about my program.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

This program allows me to look at our world in both a microscopic and macroscopic level, which makes me a better leader and problem-solver. By viewing the world in both levels, I can think critically and tackle real life situations such as antibiotic resistance or the Zika virus. Additionally, the curriculum of this program is interdisciplinary, stimulating and thorough. The classes cover a variety of topics, in which students get to specialize in, as they enter third and fourth year. Also, by integrating Human Biology and Health Studies, I have been able to practice and develop various skills for my assignments and assessments such as lab reports and essays. The resources on campus such as the writing center and professor’s office hours have been a true support system. In terms of research, the Human Biology and Health Studies program has allowed me to develop both quantitative and qualitative research skills; which have assisted me in becoming a research assistant at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and a Microbiology Lab assistant on campus. The Human Biology and Health Studies program brings together two academic departments; the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Anthropology. This provides myself and other students many opportunities to network with professors and professionals in both disciplines; which helps guide us in choosing a suitable career path.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1) Study smart and use the resources available. The most important recommendation would be to attend all lectures and tutorials. By going to class you are able to practice, learn and ask questions about concepts in class and ultimately do well in your courses. Attending office hours is advantageous too, because it gives you an opportunity to ask questions about topics discussed in class but also a chance to get to know your professors and teaching assistants. By participating in class, you will have the opportunity to meet fellow students who have similar interest and a chance to assist each other by forming study groups. Finally, doing readings will be extremely beneficial since it provides assistance with your exams and assignments; but also lets you further explore topics in the field of Human Biology or Health Studies that you wish to research or pursue a career in.
2) Get involved on and off campus. From the start of your undergraduate studies, get involved in clubs and departmental student associations (DSAs); which will be an opportunity to meet students who share similar interests. This will also give you an opportunity to meet professors and professionals in your discipline of studies, thus providing you more opportunities to network and gain experience. It is vital to get involved outside of campus too, by either joining or volunteering for an organization or getting a part-time job. Becoming involved both on and off campus makes you a more well-rounded individual and teaches you important skills such as time management.
3) Have fun! Enjoy your time at UTSC; it is a great community and a wonderful place to grow.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

With my Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and Health Studies – Population Health, I can work as a research assistant, Health care Centre administrator, Lab Technician and more. Personally after graduating with my undergraduate degree, I would like to pursue a Masters in Public Health, Health Sciences or Epidemiology. After completing my masters I would like to attend Medical School and practice Medicine. From pursuing a master’s degree and a doctor of medicine, I intend to focus my practice and research on the well-being of Canadian Aboriginal communities. In order to achieve my goals, I must complete the GRE and MCAT, which test my knowledge and skills such as analytical writing and reasoning, chemical and physical foundations, biological foundations, verbal reasoning and more which I have learned and developed during my undergraduate studies.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

In first year, the main objective is to set the foundation of biology, health studies, chemistry, statistics, calculus and physics. Many courses will review concepts that were studied in grade 12, but also add additional detail. For example, BIOA01 and BIOA02 cover evolutionary biology, cellular/molecular biology, ecology, genetics, animal/plant biology and physiology. On the other hand, the first year courses in health studies (HLTA02 & HLTA03) introduce the subject to students by exploring topics such as health policy, models of health, health economics and child development. First year is also the chance to get comfortable with the campus and to get involved through volunteer positions, athletics, clubs and more. In second year, courses begin to become more detailed in both the human biology and health studies program. Many students take courses such as Animal Physiology, Organic Chemistry, Infectious Diseases, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Health Research Methodology. These courses are the pillars to the respective field each student will specialize in their third and fourth year. Third year is the academic year; students get to choose specialized courses that interest them in their respective departments. In the Human Biology program third year courses include; Microbiology, Immunology, Human Physiology, Biochemistry, Genomics and more. In the Health studies program third year courses include; Epidemiology, Deconstructing Epidemics, Environment and Health, Child Health and Development and more. Second and third year is a great time to start volunteering or working with your professors or organizations which study topics that interest you. Finally, fourth year is similar to third year but you are required to complete fourth year level courses which may include independent research, seminars and more. Also during your undergraduate studies, it’s very important to make sure you finish all degree requirements, any prerequisite courses for your graduate studies and achieve good grades.

Swara Shah

Majors: Human Biology & Neuroscience

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I entered UTSC with a passion for studying the human body, however little did I know that UTSC would have a vast variety of biology related programs for me to explore. After first year, I decided to do a double major as it would allow me to explore multiple science areas. The reason I chose Neuroscience and Human Biology is because both are related to the human body, one more holistic (Human Biology) over the other which is brain focused. I also realized that there is a lot of potential for opportunities in the future in the field of neuroscience because it is still relatively new with lots more to be discovered.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

The human biology and neuroscience programs are highly integrated yet still very different. Courses for human biology touch upon many different areas in biology such as anatomy, physiology, and integrative biology, whereas neuroscience courses are very interrelated and focused on different aspects of the nervous system and behavior. What I like about the neuroscience major instead of specialist is that the major gives me huge flexibility in terms of courses I can take. The neuroscience major program has allowed me to take some very interesting psychology courses that I would not have otherwise taken. These programs give me exposure to three divisions at once such as biology, neuroscience, and psychology hence giving me exposure to different professors, different teaching styles, and different opportunities throughout my education.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1. Plan backwards. Once you decide which program you want to do, I would advise that you sit down one day and plan every single course you’re going to take for the remaining years. Planning it out backwards means picking 4th year courses and then working down to 2nd year. This makes the struggle of course selection much easier because it allows you to see which prerequisites / co-requisites you need for the courses you want to take. It also helps you graduate on time without missing any important courses. Furthermore, this is especially important to do for related majors such as Human Biology and Neuroscience because many courses can be used to fulfill both programs so you should be careful since you must take at least 12 distinct credits between the two majors to graduate.
2. Talk to professors. This is advice that you will forever be grateful for. Go to office hours, ask questions, and just get to know your professors. The more people you talk to, the more networks you develop, and networking is key for success in any program. The professors at UTSC are very helpful and welcoming thus you should never feel intimidated or nervous to approach them. They love visitors at office hours and they love to get to know their students! (This comes in handy when it’s time for those reference letters.)
3. Learn about the free services available to you. From healthcare to tutoring to interesting seminars, UTSC has it all. In my first year, I was quite oblivious to all the free services available to its students thus I advise you to learn about them and use them to their maximum potential as soon as possible. For example, there are many opportunities for strengthening your writing skills or math skills, there are biology/chemistry help sessions, wellness peer programs that provide helpful hints and events, and much more for students to explore.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)

I have applied to medical school as my first choice and am currently considering graduate programs for Masters/Ph.D. in Medical Sciences. Being able to double major in Human Biology & Neuroscience gives me a broad spectrum of career options to choose from. I can consider research in biology or neuroscience or integrated research in both areas through many graduate programs.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

Every year matters in university, thus a strong start is the key to success later. As a first year in Sciences, mostly all students take the core sciences such as general biology/chemistry, as they are prerequisites for many upper year courses. These courses often review and build on the foundations developed through the senior level courses in high school. First year was also the time I used to get to know what types of clubs and opportunities are available on campus so that I could start early and build strong networks. In my second year, I had a pretty good idea in terms of which program I wanted to do hence my courses became slightly more focused towards those areas. During second year, I became certain about which study styles and techniques work the best for me. I also landed my first research assistant position in a lab and started to become more involved in extra-curricular activities. In the summer before third year, I did a lot of research about graduate programs and the related tests that I need to take such as the MCAT for medical school. I even took an MCAT prep course and took the exam later that summer. Once third year came around, courses became much smaller and participation based allowing for more opportunities to talk to professors and meet new people. During third year, I joined another lab to explore a different research area so that I could develop a broad range of skills. I also started to research more about which schools to apply to and the prerequisite courses needed for the graduate programs. Then fourth year comes with a lot of excitement but also with a lot more commitment and responsibilities because that is when applications begin which require reference letters and lots of writing. All four years are important and unique in there own ways because each year adds to the experience acquired from the previous years. The best advice I could give is to have an interest in what you do, get involved, and don’t be afraid to meet new people/professors!
 

Pratyasha Agrawal

Majors: Human Biology and Psychology

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

During high school, I adopted a keen interest in the field of biology particularly that was in relation to the human body. At the time I wished to be in the medical field working as a physician. I explored different options across Ontario for a program that would suit my interest and future prospective. The human biology program covers a magnitude of different areas so I was aware it would allow me to divulge further into my interest and allow me to narrow down what I wished to pursue. The good reputation and high level of education at UTSC is what drew me into finalizing my decision. Upon entering UTSC, I was taking my introductory courses that all life sciences students were required to take, one of which was psychology. I didn’t expect to enroll myself into a psychology based program since I had minimal exposure to it in my past education. However upon my first exposure into it, I became very intrigued by the course content and decided to become more involved in it by first pursing a minor in it. I found myself taking plenty of psychology courses just out of sheer interest, this prompted me to turn that minor into the major and hence work towards my degree in psychology.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

At the start of this program, I was skeptical on what I was getting into. The program itself is very introductory and basic when you start and a lot of students don’t find that it caters to their interest level at such an early stage. However, life sciences as a way of going more in depth the deeper you explore the program and the topics get narrower and more focused. Therefore entering my third and fourth year courses, I was exposed to areas I was not aware that existed. For example, while taking certain psychology courses, I discovered I had a keen interest in clinical neuropsychology, a branch of psychology that I didn’t know existed. This impelled me to take more upper year courses in this field and eventually apply and obtain a research assistant position at Sickkids Hospital in the field of clinical neuropsychology. This program also offers students the opportunity to take courses in neuroscience, biochemistry, mental health which only increases the exposure you get to other disciplines. Another interesting fact about this program is that it integrates a lab component to the classes which allows students to not be sitting in a lecture hall absorbing information but also consequently applying what they learn practically and increase their skillset. As a result, a lot of student’s network with Teaching Assistants and Professors and gain research assistants positions within the University Network which is hugely beneficial to those pursing a health based career.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1) Do Not Restrict Yourself: While the human biology courses are primarily focused in the areas of biology, psychology, physical science and social sciences, it’s important you don’t only take courses in this field. Take some courses that are outside your comfort zone, balance I always find is important. If you restrict yourself to only what your program requires then you are not taking advantage of the services that are fully available to you. You can learn that you like another field just as much as you enjoy your own program. By doing so, you realize that you can integrate your two interests together and new opportunities may come to light. This could become a career changing path for you and perhaps affect your future course decision as well.

2) Expand the Areas you do Extracurricular Activities: A lot of students tend to only look for extracurricular within the university framework, although this is a great way to get involved as a student on campus and utilize the university’s resources. I personally found it extremely beneficial to expand outside to other institutions such as hospitals, non-profit organizations and clinics. The benefits of this including being able to work in a real-life working environment which can give you a taste of what life might be like after graduation. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to work with people who are not only students but also people of different ages, different stages of expertise and different work environments which increases your confidence and makes you a more adaptable individual.

3) Be ready for heavy workload: A lot of people tend to underestimate the biological and psychological sciences; they think the majority of the program is taking a book, memorizing it and regurgitating that information onto a piece of paper. As a student familiar with this program, I can ensure it is fairly more complicated than that. Although memorizing is a part of it, most of the exams are application based therefore you must be ready to obtain a conceptual understanding of the material in order to write the exams. Do not expect to memorize the book the night before and ace the exam, due the large amount of information, you need to be constantly managing your time, prioritizing your commitment and be ready for some stressful times. It’s not about who memorized the material best, it’s about who is able to understand the material accurately.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to work for a few years before pursing my masters. I gained an interest in computer science this year, I wish to educate myself in this field to decide whether it is the right direction for me. Along with this, my interest in medicine still remains, I want to go into a field that integrates both aspects (medicine and computer science). For the next bit of time, I want to narrow down what I really enjoy doing in terms of job prospective, being in the professional working environment would allow me to accomplish this goal. Along with working, I want to continue increasing my knowledge and doing non-profit on the side.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 

The first academic year of my program was largely similar to content I had learned in grade 12, since the foundation was already created the previous year, it was an excellent way for me to transition into the university environment. It was also the year that I had the most hectic schedule in terms of classes, majority of my classes involved a lab component which I was required to attend. Getting into such a hectic flow of things was the most difficult aspect for me. First year also gives you the ability to explore outside your comfort zone, see what is available on campus, get involved with extracurricular activities and interact with students. Upon second year, the material became slightly more detailed but still remained fairly foundational, this is when professors will be more lenient in accepting you for volunteer lab positions which can turn into more as you go into upper years, therefore its important you start networking despite still being in the early parts of your education. Third year is when you no longer will encounter information that is foundational but rather very specific to certain areas, this is the point when you really start to notice things that you like and don’t like. Studies is the not the only commitment you will have, you will also likely be working part-time, be a part of a club and doing volunteer work. By fourth year, the pressure of graduation will soon dawn upon you, and you will have to decide what path you must take. You might decide to take a year off to decide what you like, go straight to the professional working field to gain experience or pursue graduate studies.

Onsia Ansari

Major: Human Biology
Minors: Psychology & Political Science

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

My name means “friendly, social” and I guess my parents got it right because ever since I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to opportunities that dealt with aiding or connecting with people. Whilst I wasn’t sure of what exact career path I wanted to pursue, I knew that I was interested in working within the healthcare and social services field. During high school, I was also fortunate enough to have volunteered in a leadership program that took place at UTSC which exposed me to the campus ahead of time. I had some additional opportunities to attend events where I connected one-on-one with professors and students from UTSC and was immediately drawn to how community-oriented the environment at this campus was. Together my experiences and interests guided me in applying for the Biological Sciences (now known as Life Sciences) program at UTSC. One of the great things about UTSC is how we’re encouraged to explore different subject breadths during our undergraduate studies. I wanted to be sure that the subject POSts I chose would reflect my interests and support me in my future career aspirations. Ultimately, I decided on minoring in Psychology and Political Science in addition to my Human Biology major because I felt that together, these disciplines would train me in thinking both in a very structured and pragmatic environment as well as advancing my abstract reasoning and analytical skills. Importantly, because I aimed to directly work with people in the future, I hoped to learn what perspective each discipline had on the human so I could gain a thorough understanding on viewing problems from different lenses.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

Since my program choices spanned over 3 disciplines, I have gained a comprehensive understanding on the differences between them. For example, Biology and Psychology are two of the biggest programs offered at UTSC. This means big class sizes. But don’t let that intimidate you! I’ve learnt that larger classes in these programs have their perks. These courses tend to have more academic and peer-led resources available for students such as facilitated study groups. I have also found them be more flexible in terms of whether or not they’re available online or offer multiple tutorials. On the other hand, I found the political science program to be slightly more intimate and beneficial in advancing my personal growth as a leader and networking skills. The classes tended to be more seminar-styled and it gave me to opportunity to get to know my classmates and professors more closely. Overall, my program choice has given me to opportunity to experience the diverse courses offered at UTSC and I’ve found each field to be academically rigorous and catered to further develop the student’s research, analytical and critical thinking skills. My program combination also equipped me with indispensable transferable skills such as strong work ethic and how to work well both independently and collaboratively. During my undergraduate career, I learnt directly from professors who were at the forefront in their respective fields and their expertise helped me gain a strong grasp on the foundations of each discipline in my program. Together, these factors continue to inspire me in applying the skills and experiences that I’ve gained into working as a leader for innovating solutions for my community as I pursue further graduate studies.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

As a youth mentor, it’s always thrilling for me to hear when first-year students have a plan for what they intend on pursuing after graduation. My biggest advice for them would be to also have the foresight to create a back-up plan. Look ahead into the courses you’re interested in taking over the next few years and check their prerequisite requirements. Make it a priority to attend career fairs and workshops hosted by the university departments to talk with professionals and gain a first-hand insight into different career paths that interest you. I’ve changed so much as a person since my first year in university and so have my career aspirations. However, because I chose my program carefully and was conscious of my future goals, I had the wiggle room to accommodate these changes.
 
Speaking of growth and change, my second advice would be to encourage students to make the effort to step out of their comfort zones and start gaining experiences. The University of Toronto has countless amazing clubs, organizations or causes for students to get involved in. I know it can be intimidating trying to navigate through all of the available organizations but bear in mind that once you do join, it will only open doors for further opportunities. Make it a goal to become an active member on your campus and learn to strike a balance between your academic, social and professional work life.
 
Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for opportunities. The university has a plethora of resources and workshops they host for students, so be on the lookout for them. I’d highly suggest checking announcement boards on campus, the Career Learning Network and Intranet on a regular basis and taking advantage of any training or events they may be having. Remember that whilst there are numerous opportunities available to you, you’re still going to have to take initiative in making the effort to seek them out. I can honestly say that all of the wonderful opportunities such as the mentorship program, research conferences or other social events that I’ve had the chance to attend in these last four years were either directly or indirectly a result of me taking initiative and being proactive.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

Having undergone such a diverse choice of program for my undergraduate degree, I feel confident in how well I’ve been prepared with the right transferable skills that I’ll be able to apply to whichever career I choose to pursue. Currently, I'm working as a program developer for youth and am directly applying the knowledge on policy development that I gained from my undergraduate degree into my work everyday. Secondly, I’ve been selected to partake in the City of Toronto’s Protégée Program which is aimed at increasing women’s participation in the municipal government. The program aims to give young women leaders in the community gain a first-hand insight into the work and experiences of a women Councillor. I’m thrilled to have been chosen to represent the UTSC and Scarborough community and look forward to learning from this experience as I set to pursue further graduate studies in Policy Development and Social Services. My ultimate goal is to bring forth my experiences, education and skills to research and develop policies catered with the unique struggles of minorities and women in Toronto in mind.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
One of the things I distinctly remember from my first academic year was how well each course was designed to first review and then broaden the basic high-school knowledge students were entering with. First year was also the time where the science courses held labs and taught students the standards at which research is conducted. Since we’re required to officially declare our subject posts (what you’re minoring or majoring in) near the end of first year, I took advantage of this time to explore different subjects and simultaneously fulfil my breadth requirements. Furthermore, first year is when students are provided ample resources to help them transition from high-school into their university career. Whether it was facilitated study groups aimed at reviewing lectures or additional review sessions hosted by Teaching Assistants or professors, I pushed myself to attend them regularly. Ultimately, I ended up benefitting greatly from this and saw my confidence in balancing time and doing well in classes grow. Since the classes in first year tend to be so big, it’s not always easy to make friends during lectures. Instead, I took advantage of the numerous trips, events and social gatherings for first-years and found myself making friends and networking. By second year, the courses became slightly more specialized and biology students were expected to have understood the art of labs and report writing. Since I was now well-versed in balancing my time, I used second year to start working a part-time job as well as volunteer with numerous non-profits. Third year and fourth year were my favorite in terms of the academic content. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping away from the large classroom sizes and attending seminar-style lectures. These kinds of classes were highly specialized in their content, had strict prerequisite requirements and tended to push the students to apply the basic foundation of knowledge gained in the past two years to critically analyze and solve problems. Here is where I also decided to attend career sessions and resume workshops hosted by the Career Centre regularly as I explored further graduate study and work options. I also used this time to commit myself into simply volunteering for two positions and saw myself bring my vision to life in each of them. Due to strong work ethic and discipline that most upper year students strive to achieve, this is also the time where students should see the fruits of their efforts pay off in attaining higher GPA scores. Third and fourth year are also a time for students to build meaningful relationships with their professors and gain advice from professionals working in careers you see yourself pursuing after graduation. I found that seeking advice and making clear goals for yourself helps reduce some of the anxiety that students may have about their plans after graduation.

Saranyah Ravindran

Majors: Human Biology and Health Studies - Population Health

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I have always had an interest in the sciences, specifically biology, but also had a strong passion for social sciences too. In high school, I was interested in applying to Health Sciences programs which would fuse both biological science courses with social science courses related to health and health care. However, I could not find Health Sciences within the University of Toronto, so I decided to pursue Life Sciences. When I accepted my admission to the University of Toronto Scarborough, I knew I was destined for the Human Biology major program. I chose this program because of my love for human, rather than plant or animal, biology, which would provide courses specific to human physiology and immunology that focused on the bodily systems that I was most interested in learning. Not only was the program a great doorway into a career in the medical field, but also provided courses that I genuinely could not wait to take. Although I was set on Human Biology, my choice for Population Health was not as clear. I was initially not aware of the Population Health program within Health Studies prior to my acceptance into the University of Toronto. It was upon reading through the course calendar that I noticed Population Health, and suddenly was intrigued. The courses offered within the Population Health program included the types of courses I was hoping to integrate with a biology major in a Health Sciences program. Courses such as Child Health and Development, Aging and the Life-Cycle as well as Introduction to Research Methodology courses were offered within the program and piqued my interest. By pursuing a Double Major in Human Biology and Population Health, I was able to create a program that not only satisfied my interest in biology but also provided me with the health studies courses I was hoping to get through a Health Sciences program to help me build a strong, multidisciplinary approach to health.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

Both the Population Health and Human Biology program has taught me how to critically think about real-world health problems both through a microscopic lens of the human body and its systems as well as in a macroscopic lens through the interweaving social and biological determinants of human health. The program has provided me with opportunities to expand my knowledge base on the subject matter of health by offering a variety of courses in social determinants of health and health disparities that would not be covered in a core biology focused program. The highlights of these two programs are the research opportunities offered by a number of professors both in the biology and anthropology departments. Whether you are interested in working with animals or cells in a lab, ecology in the field, conducting focus groups of students or helping write a systematic review, there are boundless opportunities made available to students on campus. The Population Health program also offers co-op placements in various sectors of the health care industry, allowing students to gain further experience and apply practical skills in a competitive market. In both programs, as you progress to 3rd and 4th year, the class sizes get smaller and you begin to have more discussion and seminar based lectures that will allow you to better get to know your professors and class mates. While your first and second year classes will provide a lot of foundational information that is core to the program, it is in your 3rd and 4th year classes that you will have the opportunity to choose classes that pique your interest as classes become more topic specific and smaller in class size allowing you to get the most out of these courses. In both programs, many 4th year courses provide research opportunities for students within the class, allowing students to earn credits while building their research skills and experience that could aid in graduate school and job applications.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1) Use a planner or calendar! University can seem overwhelming due to the number of courses your taking, the number of reading material assigned and the tests, midterms and assignments that are scheduled throughout the semester, not to mention the extracurricular activities you hope to be involved in. The easiest way to keep on top of school work and organize your time is to use a planner, agenda or even the calendar app on your phone! SCSU hands out free agendas at the beginning of the school year each year, so you don’t even have to spend a penny on something that can make a huge difference in your ability to time-manage! The biggest difference, personally, between high school and university is the flexibility of my schedule, which has both pros and cons. University is great in that you are able to independently create your own schedule that works best for you, however this also means that you might find yourself with a lot of free time. By using a planner and managing you time wisely, you’ll be able to stay on track or even ahead, reducing the stress of school significantly.

2) Get to know your professors! Students tend to show up to class, listen and then leave once the lecture is done, which is sometimes the bare minimum. Our professors are here to not only teach us, but to engage us in the material. Professors offer office hours for students to ask questions and also engage in discussion. Even if you do not have any questions related to the course material, if you’re interested in the course topic itself, this is a great opportunity to get to know your professor and their academic and career journey. Professors can be a great resource to help you navigate your academic career, and at the end of the day, they’re here to help you succeed, so don’t be shy to approach them.

3) Take advantage of every opportunity you can. Many students enter university not knowing exactly what career they will pursue following their degree. Even if you do know what you want to do with your Bachelor’s degree, it doesn’t hurt to take advantage of every opportunity available to you. One of the most important things to figure out during university is discover not only what you like, but what you don’t like. By applying to a number of available positions within the university campus or even outside of campus, you will gain experience working in a number of different positions within different fields of interest. Constantly keep up to date with the Career Learning Network (CLN) where you can find a number of volunteer and job opportunities on and off campus. I have been using CLN to discover all of the great opportunities I have been fortunate to have throughout my academic career at UTSC, so don’t waste this amazing resource!

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

I plan to utilize my background in both human physiology and immunology through various courses within my Human Biology program as well as the knowledge I have gained through my research methodology, epidemiology and statistics courses within my Population Health program to pursue a Master in Public Health, specializing in Epidemiology. With both my Bachelor of Science degree and Master in Public Health degree, I hope to work as an applied epidemiologist within Health Canada to study the prevalence of autoimmune diseases, specifically allergies and allergic asthma, in children and help create policies and health promotion strategies based on epidemiological data collected to improve affected children’s quality of life.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

Within the Human Biology program, the first academic year focused on foundational biology and chemistry courses as well as psychology, calculus and statistics. A lot of the material in these courses covered many of the topics learned in senior high school science and mathematics courses, however the material delved in a little deeper and there were a few newer topics as well. The large number of first year human biology pre-requisite courses balanced well with the courses required for first year Population Health which was just two courses covering the foundations of health studies where we were introduced to the study of health and the various models and issues currently affecting health. During first year, I was able to socialize with many students, especially during biology and chemistry labs as well as tutorials for my other classes as the class size was much smaller and reminiscent of a high school class in terms of size. In second year, the courses offered to students in both major programs begin to focus on modules covered in the foundational courses of first year. For instance, in Human Biology, the courses required were predominantly within the biology department. Courses such as Animal Physiology, Cell and Molecular Biology, Evolution and Ecology were offered and provided students with a deeper understanding of each of the given topics which were briefly introduced in first year biology. In Population Health, courses such as Introduction to Research Methodology, Biological Determinants of Health and Infectious Disease were offered to provide much more insight into the interdisciplinary approach of health studies. Third year, for both programs, is the year where you have greater choice as to which courses you want to enroll in. It was the third year courses in both programs that I was most excited to take when I started my academic journey. In Human Biology, courses such as Human Physiology and Immunology piqued my interest and in Population Health courses such as Introduction to Epidemiology, Child Health and Development as well as Aging and the Life Cycle were the courses that I knew I was most passionate about. It is in both second year and third year that many students become much more involved in campus after becoming accustomed to university life and the workload. It is in these years that many students secure volunteer or work-study placements within the campus that might include lab positions or positions within a University department such as the Department of Student Life or Academic Advising and Career Centre to name a few. In third year and fourth year, the class sizes get substantially smaller which makes it much easier to have class discussion within lectures about topics you are passionate about. In fourth year, many students are finishing up the last few courses required for their program majors, degree requirements as well as a fourth year D-level course on a specific topic within the field. Students in fourth year are often balancing many extracurricular commitments including applications to graduate or professional schools as well as maintaining good grades.

Aryana Singh

Majors: Biochemistry and Human Biology

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
These programs took the topics that I found most interesting in the organization of biological structures and systems, including Organic Reaction and Cellular Processes. Furthermore, as these two majors are fairly similar in their course requirements, I was able to take several electives in order to broaden my knowledge.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Through my program, I was able to gain a lot of practical experience. I really enjoyed this aspect of my studies as it allowed me to gain a lot of hands on experience to exercise what would otherwise be understood through reading and theory study. The counter side to having practical experience would be having several hours of class in a single week, which really requires you to appropriately manage your time to stay on top of both the lecture component and the practical component of a course.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
First, in order to determine whether this is the right program for you, do not hesitate to contact a program adviser. They will be able to help you define your strengths and weaknesses; as well as, inform you of what you should expect as you progress through your program!
 
Second, as the courses that I have taken for my program involve I have needed to write several Formal Reports. I found the UTSC Library Resources and Databases extremely helpful when constructing Formal Lab Reports. Try to visit the Liaison Librarian for your program to understand what resources can help you with your assignments!
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 
I strongly believe that there is so much more that I can gain from my education before entering the work force. Therefore, I would like to continue my post-secondary education through Graduate Studies. It is my hopes to pursue a degree related to my undergraduate studies, but that also allows me to adopt new skills and knowledge of other disciplines of science!
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
Any journey has its highs and lows, bumps and curve-balls. I would not say that my academic journey was as smooth as it could have been, but I managed to rustle through it! In my first year, I did not have a set goal as to what I wanted to study during my time as an undergraduate student. It was my hope that by taking introductory courses and my second year courses in the sciences that I would be able to build a solid foundation for my interests to understand where I could see myself in the future. As it turns out, my interests were much broader than I anticipated. By the end of my first year, I knew that I wanted to take more electives to have a better perspective of the opportunities at my disposal and chose a program that allowed me to explore my options. By my third year, I was able to take courses that gave me a more in-depth understanding of my areas of interest.

Mahnoor Leghari

Majors: Human Biology and Health Studies (Health Policy)
Minor: Psychology

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

My interest in studying biology and also applying biological sciences to practical scenarios helped me with choosing Human Biology and Health Studies as my double majors. I also took some courses in psychology and began enjoying the area of study and decided to pursue a minor in psychology as well.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

The Human Biology program offered a lot of flexibility in the types of courses I could choose, especially in the C and D level courses. It also offers a plethora of interesting courses where you are able to take courses based on your interests and strengths. The Health Studies program has been an eye opening discipline when it comes to health policy and the humanities. The courses offer the unique opportunity to connect theoretical aspects learned in the classroom, and apply them to real life and practical situations. Courses are also taught by amazing faculty members where some are also professionals in the field.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
Take first and second year courses in the programs to see where your interests and strengths are. Manage your time well and try not to fall behind on assigned readings or lectures while making the effort to review for each course every day. Don't be afraid to ask for help when struggling with course concepts or when questions arise. Professors and TA's are always available and are there to help you do well and understand course content.

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)

I hope to attend graduate school pursuing the Health Policy stream further and also working in Health Policy related opportunities so that I can gain practical experience in the field.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

My academic journey first year was overwhelming but also really interesting because I was able to explore my interests by taking different electives but also experienced times where I was having a hard time with transitioning from high school. Second year, was when I began to explore extracurricular opportunities which helped me organize myself and balance my schedule better. I also learned a lot about what my interests were and what I wanted to pursue as my majors that year. Third year, I had a lot of fun with the courses I was taking as I was genuinely interested in the content that was being taught. Also, I finally was comfortable with the academic and social lifestyle and expectations of an undergraduate student. In my fourth and fifth year it’s all been about working hard and figuring out what exactly I would like to pursue after I graduate. Fourth and fifth year I have also had the chance to gain in-depth knowledge through taking C and D level courses in my chosen disciplines which has been a very valuable experience for me.