Molecular Biology - Immunology & Diseases: Student Testimonials

Anum Ahmed

Majors: Molecular Biology, Immunology and Disease and Psychology

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
I actually started off my first year aiming for the Human Biology Specialist. But after exploring first year life science courses, I wanted to study Psychology as well. I was also interested in pathobiology and disease transmissions but there was no direct major/specialist for it at that time. By my second year, the Molecular Biology, Immunology, Disease was formed and I immediately picked it along with Psychology. I have to admit that having majors instead of specialist has its perks and flexibilities. I got to explore and learn more of what I like, instead of focusing on just one: which was both the fields of Immunology and Psychology. After I graduate, I have a diverse range of courses in my transcript which allows me to go in a different direction if I want (career-wise).
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Molecular Biology and Immunology major is not very different from the Human Biology major except for a couple of courses based on immunology. I really got to learn a lot about the immune system, pathobiology, human anatomy, body functions. The holistic concept of the human body is coupled with learning about the smallest parts that make it, which is cell systems and microbiology. The courses required do not delve deep into plant systems. The Psychology major was definitely an interesting experience. UTSC is definitely proud of its Psychology program because of the most wide range of interesting courses, professors and even research opportunities. Within a Psychology specialist/major one can pick stream of studying human behavior, culture and social environment or studying human brain, mental disabilities and mental health. Beyond these two specialties there are even more courses in Psychology one can explore.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1) Keep in mind of Carpe Diem- Seize opportunities that come your way. Apply for international volunteer positions, explore clubs, and attend recreational outdoor trips. University will be 4 of the most memorable years of your life and you cannot relive it again.
2) Networking is KEY. Network. Network. Network. Attend department mix and mingles. Talk to your professors and TAs. Get to know them. This is one tip I really wish I was told in first year. Having connections really helps you get jobs and volunteer positions throughout your years on campus.
3) Focus, Organize, Plan- Focus on the certain jobs or volunteer positions you want, and tailor your resume to get those positions. Organize what courses you will take each year. Plan your time to juggle your social life, work schedule, lectures, study time, and leisure time appropriately.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
There are many ways I can go with my degree. Medical school and pharmacy are always obvious options for life science students. But with Psychology I could do a Masters in Counseling, Clinical Psychology, Teaching, etc. This could lead to careers in counseling, teaching or a further PhD to become a professor. I could even head into Masters of Biology, Immunology, Molecular Biology etc. and head into research, or a further PhD to become a professor. There are also post-graduate diploma programs in colleges that vary from 1-3 years that train you into specific careers like Research Assistant, Lab Technician, etc. There are programs that come up every year, like Masters in Science Management or Translational Sciences at UofT. My point is that medical school and pharmacy are not the only ways to go, there is a lot more to the field of life sciences. My current plan is to take a year off, get more work experience and head to grad school in the field of Psychology.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
First year- Getting to know the whole concept of "university life". Understanding how course enrolment works, resources on campus and the difficulty level of courses. I really took my time to get to know UTSC so I could exploit all resources to my advantage. You have to do some basic life science courses like biology, chemistry, psychology, statistics/math, physics etc. which will be very similar to high school concepts. Second Year- Slightly higher B level courses specific to the major/specialist. For Immunology, concepts of human physiology, human anatomy, cell systems and many lab courses. For Psychology, more specific courses in human behavior, social theory, prejudice and stereotypes, etc. Third year- Higher level of C courses along with B level courses. But there is more flexibility in choosing what C levels you want to choose. More lab opportunities available due to experience. Fourth year- By now, most requirements for the program will be complete, so taking electives to complete degree requirements as well as D level courses that involve presentations, debates, more participation, research papers as well as research-thesis courses.

Caroline Watling

Majors: Molecular Biology, Immunology, and Disease and Theatre and Performance Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
I've always loved theatre, but knew I wanted to pursue a BSc. I originally applied for biochemistry, however after second year I realized that wasn't the direction where I wanted to focus. In my third year I took the b levels and requirements for both Human Biology and my current program. I love that I'm able to have such different majors.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Theatre studies at UTSC is a very demanding but fulfilling program, which explores performance, history, theatre in Canada, possibly technical theatre. I've developed not only as an actor, but have also learned how to hang a light, and historical events that shaped gender roles in contemporary society. Theatre is wonderful because of the small class sizes and ability to explore yourself. Biology offers many hands on learning experiences through labs. The first two years offer education in all areas of biology; however, as you move into upper year courses there is an ability to specialize.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1. Look at upper year courses that your program offers or requires. Upper year courses ought to appeal to you. They become more demanding, so it is important that you enjoy the material.
2. Hard work is more important than anything. You've made it this far; you've proven your intelligence; it's time for your work ethic to shine.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 
I'm interested in becoming a naturopath, blending my interests in biology, and arts.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
I found first year was an adjustment to the system of university. Second year I struggled academically because I was not in the right courses. It wasn't until I was in third year and found courses that really interested me. I'm now into my fourth year, I'm enjoying all of my courses and have earned almost straight A's in the past year.

Aisha Ahmad

Majors: Molecular Biology, Immunology and Disease & French

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
I started my First Year as a French Specialist but felt a little adrift studying only in the Arts. There seemed that there was a part of myself that I was neglecting. So, in the second semester of my First Year, I had started to search through other Major options in the UTSC database that were in line with my preferences. I came across the Immunology and Disease Major option in one of my searches and did a thorough overview of the course requirements. I found them intriguing and so, from then on, I started to find methods to tweak my schedule in a way that enabled me to pursue both my Biology and French Requirements in parallel measures for my degree.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Studying in Arts and Science side by side is no easy task. I will say that any degree requires that you put sincere effort and hard work into whatever it is you pursue. However, I feel that studying French and Biology en par with one another has been a most interesting challenge. Many a time, I have found myself stumbling in the process to balance the two course loads of very distinctive natures. Biology awakes the curiosity in me and prompts me to realize the mechanics of the world as far as our Modern Research has allowed us to know while French permits me to understand a language and a culture that I was unaware of before my academic pursuits here at UTSC. In terms of my French Major--- I have pursued Grammar, Literature, Cultural and Phonetic courses that have given me an ability to communicate in the language to a rather agreeable degree as well as an understanding of the workings of France and Quebec in terms of their culture and history in such a manner that has increased my understanding of some of the inner workings of the French World. In terms of my Immunology Major---I have had the chance to get a glimpse into understandings of Ecological, Evolutionary, Cellular, and Molecular components of Biology that, on my own, I would have never been able to draw connections between. Pursuing this degree has really helped me explore the varying aspects of Biology and thoroughly understand that they are all interminably interconnected.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1) Explore your options in First Year, no matter what degree you enter University with the intention of pursuing----Branch out and see what complements your skills and talents. Figure out who you are as an Individual (it’s an ongoing process so, don't worry).
2) Hard Work, Effort and Perseverance always pay off. Don't ever abandon these three traits through your academic battles/pursuits because despite a few mishaps and hurdles, you'll always come through if you adhere to these principles.
3) Ask for help when you need it. There are so many resources offered by the University and the varying Campus Groups on Campus that are instated for your benefit and to help you succeed. So, although somewhat frightening, take that step and ask for help because if you are struggling with a concept then, I assure you--others are as well and working in a group to help one another out is very conducive to learning.

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
I plan to pursue Higher Studies to become a Teacher.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
In First Year, I took every breadth requirement I could possibly avail from. I pursued French, Psychology, Political Science, Women and Gender Studies, Statistics and Cultural Studies. I got involved with various Campus groups. In the Summer of my First Year, I started pursuing Biology in earnest In my Second Year, I had a hard time finding an equilibrium between the number of Biology and French Courses I needed to take and I struggled with understanding how to balance between extra-curricular and academic requirements. In my Third Year, I have reached an understanding of my capacities and limitations. I am pursuing 4 courses-----2 in French and 2 in Biology ---that have allowed me to actually come to enjoy my time in University and not Stress to unhealthy degrees while still being actively engaged with on-campus events and groups. I hope to continue on this trajectory that allows me to work at my own pace in a helpful manner for the rest of my time at UTSC.