Healthy Balance with Tara Antle

By Mariana Hernández-Hernández, WorkStory Ambassador at Memorial University

Tara Antle’s work story is an excellent example of initiative, proactivity, and of how one experience (whether it be volunteering, work or school) can take us to the next one. Her work story also shows us how it is possible to do what we love as a job and even turn it into an entrepreneurial endeavour.

Tara is a Nutritionist whose weekly activities include private nutrition consultations, providing grocery store tours, hosting kitchen parties, giving cooking lessons, and organizing seminars and workplace wellness programs.

She’s also a regular guest on Rogers TV’s Out of the Fog (monthly segment called “Healthy Bellies”), Cross Talk on CBC’s Radio Noon with Ramona Deering, the CBC Morning Show with Anthony Germain, The NTV Evening News and Here and Now on CBC. Moreover, her articles and interviews have been published locally, provincially and nationally in The Telegram, NL Wellness Guide, The Downhomer, Fresh Juice Magazine, Atlantic Law Enforcement magazine and The Newfoundland Herald.

How did she get here?

When Tara graduated from high school in the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland, she didn’t know what type of work she wanted to do, so she took a few years to find herself. She devoted her time to volunteering with Helping Hands and The Community Services Council, working full time in retail, studying General Medical Sciences and taking evening courses at Memorial University of Newfoundland, which eventually evolved to full time General Studies.

Five years after being involved in these activities - and mainly because of her volunteer experience - Tara realized that she wanted to do something related to health care. She chose the Applied Human Nutrition program (BSc.AHN) at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax and was able to transfer all her credits from Memorial University. During her full time studies in Nutrition, she took elective courses in Business, worked as a Residence Assistant, and helped raise funds for scholarships and bursaries with the Alumni Association.

Every summer, Tara returned home to Newfoundland and held different jobs. The summer before graduation, she had the chance to work for the federal Public Works and Government Services as part of their student program, and after university graduation, she was offered a full time position. This experience led to an opportunity working in finance with the federal government in Newfoundland, and it, in turn, led to a government position in Ottawa as a Financial Officer! While working in her new role in Ottawa, Tara studied full time during the evenings at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and earned her Diploma of Natural Nutrition (Holistic Nutrition).

Later, Tara became one of the three Nutritionists that were hired by Shoppers Drug Mart for a pilot project.  She was responsible for the Ottawa region and her duties involved helping build a clientele, developing and delivering health and nutrition seminars in the community, acting as a liaison and team member with local physicians and pharmacists, creating in-store educational displays, and facilitating sampling of products.

After being away from Newfoundland for ten years, Tara decided to move back with the intention of eventually starting her own business. Once in St. John’s, she worked as a Nutritionist for a company for a couple of years and then left to develop the business plan for her own private practice. Seven months later, her dream became a reality as she began Healthy Balance. With more than 15 years of experience, six years of formal education in Dietetics, Holistic Nutrition and Health Studies, Tara’s private practice has been successfully flourishing for the past six years.

When Tara was studying nutrition as an undergraduate student, she was often questioned about her choice and was told by some that she was wasting her time. She stayed firm with her decision, however, and continued doing what she loved. Now, nutrition is gaining more and more attention and is even considered something ‘trendy.’ Today no one would question its importance as a field of study and interest.

When I asked Tara if she had any advice for students seeking the ‘right’ career path, she said: Do what you love and the rest will follow as long as you take the right steps to find an employment opportunity that works for you. Skill sets are transferrable to each new opportunity that exists. Be patient, persistent and keep a positive attitude. Her career path is good proof of that as Tara enjoys her job so much that it doesn’t feel like work!

To learn more about Tara and what she does, check out her website at



Science Career Development Coordinator: Kristen’s Story

By Mariana Hernández-Hernández, WorkStory Ambassador at Memorial University

Kristen’s work story, like many others, teaches us that “careers are not linear.” She, who pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Education thinking that she would be a K-6 teacher, is now a Science Career Development Coordinator.

As a Science Career Development Coordinator, Kristen helps university students, especially science students, with their job search, resumes and mock interviews. She also connects science students with alumni and employers working in the industry by creating and hosting networking events on campus.

On a normal day, she holds one-on-one career consultations, she plans, organizes and facilitates career networking events for science students, Science Career Talks (science alumni present to science students about how they navigated their job search and landed their careers), weekly career development workshops for science students, and she also helps her co-workers with other on-campus events, such as the Career Fair.

What she loves about her job is that it’s the perfect balance between counselling (helping/ guiding) and teaching, and she enjoys very much meeting with students in a one-on-one setting.

How did she get to this position?

After gaining her Education degree, she had difficulty in finding a permanent position as a teacher. So, for four years she had to hold various part-time positions such as substitute teacher for K-6, various tutoring/teaching positions, ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapist and housekeeper.

Still uncertain about what to choose as a career path and aware of the job hunting skills that she had lacked as a new graduate, Kristen decided to go back to school. She knew now that teaching in a classroom setting wasn’t her passion after all and that perhaps she preferred working more one- on- one with individuals. She knew she loved helping others and working with students, so she thought that pursuing a Master of Education (Counselling Psychology) would take her to the right professional path, which still remained unknown to her.

Kristen started her master’s program without still having a clear idea of what she was going to do with her degree when she finished. During her master’s degree, Kristen completed a Career Counselling course. Since she had struggled with finding a job after her Education degree and also with deciding what to choose as a career path, the idea of helping people as a career counsellor seemed very attractive. Wanting to know more about this career path and hoping to be selected, she applied to a four-month internship position at the university Career Centre (Career Development and Experiential Learning).

Upon a successful application, for four months, she had the opportunity to experience what it would be like to be a Career Coach. During her internship, she provided career advice to students and she assisted them with the preparation of resumes and cover letters as well as with mock interviews. She also helped at career and experiential learning events organized by the Career Development and Experiential Learning Centre.

After this four-month experience, which she really enjoyed, she knew that it was her calling. In the meantime, Kristen had to look for other options. She was able to find an alternative job on campus in Human Resources, and although Kristen liked many aspects of this other positon, her heart had stayed at the Career Centre… Luckily, after five months of working in Human Resources, one day, she noticed a job opening for a Science Career Development Coordinator at the Career Centre and applied for it. She ended up gaining an interview and landed the job. Kristen couldn’t be happier.

Now, after one year working at the Career Centre, Kristen still loves what she does and hopes to continue working there.

Finally, Kristen leaves us with some career advice:

Research reveals that the average person changes their career SEVEN times in their lifetime! Therefore, people shouldn’t become discouraged just because they change their mind about what to do in life. It is “normal” to have many interests and have various jobs in our lifetime. Besides, we live in a contractual society, so it’s becoming more and more common for people not to work “permanently” in the same job. What is ‘essential’ in our society is to know how to ‘transfer’ the skills that you gain in one job to lead you to the next one.

Be proactive in finding your career (finding a job can be a full-time job!) Learn how to best articulate your skills to employers. If you are at Memorial University, come visit the Career Development and Experiential Learning Centre to gain knowledge of your own career interests and what career opportunities there are for you.  Not at Memorial?  Take advantage of similar services – while you are a student – at your college or university! It will help you in the long run. 

Biology Meets Business: The Best of Both Worlds

By Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Who says biology graduates are limited to working in the science field? Not Zach Armstrong, that’s for sure!

Zach is currently the Director of Business Development for Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization based at Western University that designs and delivers research and training programs in Canada. Zach completed his undergrad in biology at Western University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2008. His fourth year research project involved looking at a family of proteins within a species of flowering plants known as Arabidopsis thaliana (a weed). Zack then continued to pursue doctoral work at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and completed his PhD in 2014.

Prior to procuring his position at Mitacs, throughout his undergraduate years, Zach worked a series of summer jobs in his hometown in Northern Ontario --  jobs at a lumber mill or a convenience store. During undergrad, Zach was involved in many volunteer and extra-curricular activities. He was the president of the Science Student Council in his 3rd year and a member of the University Student Council for a number of years until he was ultimately on the university Senate in his 4th year. He really enjoyed being involved with the school and the community and still enjoys it.

A typical day in the life of Zach Armstrong at Mitacs is variable!  Much of the work involves meeting people and discussing the challenges they may have. Often he is involved in promoting Mitacs programs.  Some of the work is administrative.  For example, he does a lot of reviews of applications, and makes sure the research proposals are hitting the right notes. He says that the skills he gained during grad school really helped him in that particular part of his job.

The main part of Zach’s job, though, entails talking to professors and students.  As Zach describes it, these conversations involve “explaining how the programs work, providing tips on how to build partnerships with non-academic organizations (i.e. businesses and non-profits) and then talking to those businesses and non-profits and explaining how the program works. Digging into the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis and showing them how research can help them solve those challenges is just one of the many facets involved in this job. It’s a very dynamic job”.

Although Zach graduated with degrees in biology, he was able to use the skills and knowledge he obtained and apply them to his current job as a Director for Business Development. “It’s a big field with a lot of different organizations. In terms of qualities that would help one become successful in this field, a lot of them are gained as you go through graduate school, such as understanding how grant and research proposals are supposed to be well written. But it’s difficult to find someone with ‘the complete package’  for these types of jobs, specifically the ones at Mitacs, because there is such a business development side to it and those aren’t necessarily skills gained as a graduate student. Skills such as being able to explain complex concepts in simple forms, networking skills and presentation skills are skills that are hard to find in someone with a PhD “

So the burning question is how did Zach, a biology graduate, discover that he wanted to become a Director of Business Development at Mitacs? When Zach was in grad school for 5.5 years completing his PhD, he wasn’t aware of Mitacs (which in retrospect he says is disappointing because they had many programs that would’ve been helpful for him).  He actually learned of the position by a happy chance.  Prior to his PhD defense, his supervisor sent him a job posting based at Western University.  This was perfect because Zach wanted to stay in London!  It was also convenient because the position was outside of research,  but still associated with the things he had been doing so it seemed like a perfect fit. “I was a little hesitant at first, but I applied and was lucky enough to get an interview and then a position in the organization. The position was actually for a business development specialist which was the entry-level position and then eventually I was promoted to Director”.

Clearly, Zach didn’t ‘always know’  he wanted to work at Mitacs. When he started his PhD, he was still exploring his options and wanted to be a faculty member at a University.  Although this was his initial interest, he realized halfway through his PhD that instead of dedicating an immense amount of time to one single goal, he wanted to be involved in things outside of school. So academia seemed like a less viable long-termgoal. However, all is well that ends well because the Mitacs position was the best of both worlds and a perfect fit for Zach!

When prompted to provide some advice for people who are in the early stages of their career,  or just about to enter the workforce, Zach stressed keeping an open mind. It’s something he would say to grad students as well. “Not everyone will be a professor at a University and there are plenty of other jobs out there. Do your best to keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to take risks. Do something you love. There shouldn’t be anything to stand in your way between doing something you love because ultimately you will be more successful at that than doing something you’re not passionate about. Find an organization you really believe in because it won’t feel like work and that’s really something everyone should strive for!”

A Daily Dose of Happily Better Afters

By Veerta Singh, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Monica Soos has known from an early age that science was her passion. She began her undergraduate career in 2006 studying Life Sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.  She later graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a minor in Biology. Currently, Monica works in Toronto as the Manager of Strategic Pricing at Janssen Inc., the pharmaceutical division of the well established healthcare company Johnson & Johnson.

Immediately after Monica completed her undergrad, she was accepted into the Master of Biotechnology (MBiotech) program at the University of Toronto. This is a two year Master’s program which “bridges science students into the business world. It is specifically geared towards students who wish to work in the field of biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry”.

The Masters of Biotechnology program opened up another door for Monica when it provided her with a co-op opportunity in 2012. She was selected for a placement at AstraZeneca, a biopharmaceutical company, as the Pricing and Reimbursement Co-op student. It was in this role where Monica “learned about how the biopharmaceutical industry works and was able to take what she learned in the classroom and apply it to the real world”. This placement enabled her to strengthen and develop the skills that help her succeed in the current field she is working in. In 2013, Monica became the access associate at Janssen and eventually the Manager of Strategic Pricing in 2015.

When prompted to describe what a regular day at work entails, Monica provides a detailed picture of how she begins and ends her day. “The day-to-day work involves checking emails, taking care of ad-hoc requests and working cross-functionally with business partners to ensure that projects are being implemented”. Within the specific role, Monica stresses the importance of having analytical skills, problem-solving skills and the ability to work well with others because these are major qualities that are required to be successful in this field. She adds that “pricing requires alignment and execution with several stakeholders, so it’s important that you have a good rapport with them to move things along”. 

Monica explains that what she loves most about her job is that the field of pharmaceutical pricing is very strategic in nature. She is inspired by the challenges that are presented to her and believes that this job is the perfect fit for her. “I am constantly learning and growing within my role, which is what keeps it fun and challenging. I have always wanted to work within pharmaceuticals, and working for a company that makes a difference in people’s lives is definitely a dream come true.

When asked if Monica had any advice to share for those who are still in the early stages of their career, she says to “make the most out of all the opportunities presented to you, but make sure you actively seek out opportunities as well as this will differentiate you from others”. 

On the water front

Tina Pittaway 

A lifelong love of the natural world has led Alex Mifflin (BA’08, Dalhousie) around the world as he explores the world of water in the award-winning television series Water Brothers, now in its third season. The series looks at the paramount role of water in people’s lives, from the slums of Nairobi to the fishing villages along the Mekong River in South East Asia to salmon farms on Canada’s West Coast. And it takes a hard look at the role humans have played in the destruction and manipulation of water over the years.

“At school I studied international development and environmental studies. With the marine sciences courses, the more I took, the more I wanted to take,” Mifflin explains during a break from editing at the family-owned SK Films in Toronto, which his parents founded. Those fields of study were the perfect companions to his brother Tyler’s degree in film studies from UBC. The two co-host and co-direct the series.

Their first foray into filmmaking was a documentary about monarch butterflies and when they completed that, they realized they were great partners and wanted to take a run at a series. They traveled to Cambodia and Belize and shot the pilot to Water Brothers. It was picked up first by TVO and is now carried in more than 40 countries.

“For me this is the dream job. Everything I do is related to international development issues,” Alex explains, sounding like he still can’t believe he gets to do this for a living. “How we use water is directly related to development and often it is the most marginalized that are lacking in clean water and sanitation and most exposed to water pollution.”
Tapping expertise

The kinds of development stories the duo cover focus on sustainability and are a lot more involved than just digging wells. “No Woman, No Water” looks at the impact that not having access to clean water has on women, who are often tasked with gathering water. In Nairobi, the duo profiled a community group who manage a local water station and toilet system funded primarily by Canadian donors.

“We spoke with women who had never had stable employment before and now they did,” says Alex. “They managed the project, which was not a charity, fees are charged. For them it is sustainable employment. And that’s one thing I learned in school: the world doesn’t need charity, the world needs sustainable economies.”

For Alex, seeing the theories that he learned about at Dalhousie play out in real-world projects is something he feels privileged to be able to share with a wide audience. As well, he’s tapped into Dal experts, including Boris Worm (right, Biology professor) and Chris Harvey-Clark (marine biologist and university veterinarian) for an episode about tracking shark and sea turtle migration near Costa Rica. As well, Sue Malloy (researcher, adjunct professor and consulting engineer in ocean engineering) advised on an episode about tidal energy.

To see for yourself, visit

This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Dalhousie Magazine.  Reprinted with permission.

Out of this World: How a York University grad helped put a probe on a distant comet

The late American astronaut Neil Armstrong changed the world when he became the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. The historical Apollo 11 moon landing has been described by Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space in 2001, as a “watershed moment” that inspired him and many others who followed him to suit up for space.

Jakub Urbanek (BASC ’09) was not one of them. But like Armstrong and Hadfield, Urbanek’s share of awe-inspiring space adventure has been well documented around the world. He is part of a team that recently made history by successfully landing the first-ever robotic probe on a comet.

“It’s remote control,” Urbanek says. “We were sitting here in Germany sending up commands to the spacecraft.”

The Rosetta spacecraft, also known as Europe’s comet chaser, launched into space in March 2004 to track down Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a relatively small object of about four kilometres in diameter and moving at a speed as great as 135,000 kilometres per hour. At that time, Urbanek was in high school and was not particularly interested in space. But that same year at a mini-orientation and campus tour at York University, he made an “unexpected decision” to study space engineering.

“I was hooked,” Urbanek recalls. “The program at York just seemed really interesting and novel.”

Fast-forward to 2014, Urbanek, an operations engineer with the flight control team at the European Space Agency (ESA), was in the main control room of the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, tracking and operating Rosetta’s release of a probe lander named Philae and its descent to Comet 67P. Rosetta had been orbiting across the solar system for 10 years; each tele-communications message between the spacecraft and ground control takes 30 minutes to transmit. After a decade-long journey hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth, the agency’s final manoeuvre on Nov. 12, 2014 to land Philae proved to be a thrilling moment in space study.

“It was incredibly emotional, exciting, and nerve-racking,” Urbanek says. “There were a few go-no-go situations during the 13 hours leading up to the separation of Philae from the mothership. It then took more than seven hours for Philae to touchdown on the comet, but the event went pretty smoothly.”

Philae’s primary mission was to last three days, during which the robot sent analysis of samplings from the comet to Rosetta, attempted to drill into the ground, and sent back images of the comet’s surface. With data Philae delivered, scientists have been analyzing to determine the composition and structure of Comet 67P, ultimately investigating the role it may have played in the beginnings of life on Earth.

“He did quite a bit of science during those three days,” Urbanek says of the lander. “It was action-packed.”

However, with its primary battery designed to last only about 60 hours, Philae, the size of a household washing machine, went into hibernation. It had bounced on landing and ended up in the shadow of a cliff in rough terrain. Its exact location is unknown. Without the solar power it needs to operate, Philae is expected to wake up and reestablish a communications link with Rosetta when the comet nears the sun in the spring. On Feb. 14, Rosetta performed a special flyby, passing within just six kilometres of the surface of the comet, but sighting Philae was not part of the event.

“The close flyby was not intentionally planned for Valentine’s Day, but it was a bit amusing,” Urbanek says. “Rosetta and Philae have been flying together for more than 10 years and they will never return to Earth. In a way, I suppose Philae is kind of like Rosetta’s child.”

After working with the Rosetta mission for the last 2.5 years, Urbanek, who has a master’s degree in aerospace studies from the University of Toronto and trained with ESA after graduation, can’t help but humanize Rosetta and Philae just a little bit.

“We monitor the spacecraft – we take care of Rosetta. We are responsible for it and we do build up a close connection with the robots, but it’s not quite a human connection,” Urbanek says. “But for some of my colleagues who have been working on this mission for the last 10 years, Rosetta and Philae are like their children.”

Asked if he would ever suit up for space like Armstrong and Hadfield did, Urbanek answers without hesitation, “If I was offered the opportunity, I wouldn’t say no.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of York U, the magazine of York University. Reprinted with permission.

Contact Lenses: More than better vision!

Harry Gandhi is a recent grad from University of Waterloo’s  Biotechnology/Economics program.  With an interest in the link between health and technology and the support of the UW’s Velocity  program he co-founded Medella Health .  

The goal?  To develop contact lens that help diabetics by monitoring glucose levels and sending the info to a mobile device…a healthcare wearable.

Read on as Douglas Soltys and Peter Kenter share more of this inspiring health startup’s story!

Krysia Bussiere: Designing Woman

By Jennifer Ammoscato

 As an architect, Krysia Bussiere BA ’12 doesn’t want to just build buildings.

She wants to help build community.

 “Architects can affect change on both a social and a physical level,” The UWindsor grad says of her work at the Detroit, Mich., architectural firm, Hamilton Anderson.  

Bussiere doesn’t shy away from a challenge. When told by Dr. Veronika  Mogyorody that the University’s new Visual Arts and the Built Environment program (VABE) would be “difficult and demanding,” she was intrigued. In fall 2009, she enrolled as part of its first class.

VABE is a collaboration of the University of Windsor’s School of Creative Arts and the University of  Detroit Mercy’s (UDM) School of Architecture. It combines the study of art and architecture to give students a breadth of knowledge and experience in both disciplines. 

 For Bussiere, VABE combined very “loose” things like the visual arts with very technical things. “It was really fun,” she says. “Like solving a puzzle. I love thinking about how people move through space, or how architecture or cities can be influenced by and influence culture.  It’s thinking on so many different levels.” 

The VABE program focuses on art in the first two years. If a student’s primary interest is in visual arts, they can complete third and fourth year at the University of Windsor and graduate with a Bachelor of  Fine Arts in Visual Arts and the Built Environment.  If they are interested in pursuing architecture and qualify, in third year they can apply to the architectural program at UDM. 

For Bussiere, the goal was always architecture. “I wanted to study architecture, but I also wanted to learn the fundamentals of drawing and sculpture.”  She spent most of first year learning to draw in various mediums, as well as some painting and sculpture, which is helpful because architects need to be able to convey their design ideas visually.

 “The visual arts classes taught me how to control my hand for Modelling and drawing,” she says. “By second year, we were all so confident in our skills that we could model creatively and quickly in such great volume.”

 Bussiere spent her third-, and fourth-year co-op placements with Toronto-based B+H, one of Canada’s largest architectural firms. “I learned more and more about the architectural process.

I learned about ‘construction documents’ and how they zero in on finer details as a project progresses. Over time, I was given more and more responsibility.”

Through B+H, Bussiere worked on higher education buildings and on the Markham Pan Am Centre erected for the 2015Pan / Parapan American Games in Markham, Ont.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in 2012 from U Windsor, part of VABE’s first graduating class. The alumna was accepted to the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in 2013 and Master’s in Architecture in 2014.

 Bussiere joined Hamilton Anderson, a Detroit firm that handles a wide variety of projects that include architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and interior design. 

 She initially began as an intern, but is now full time. “While you’re in school, you hear about firms from your professors and get in your mind where you’d like to work based on what they do and the people who work there.

 “Working with Hamilton Anderson appealed to me because they have a great studio environment and take on large-scale projects—but also smaller-scale projects—in the city of Detroit.”

 Detroit, freshly sprung from its term as the largest city in US history to declare bankruptcy, is working hard to transform itself. Part of this includes attracting investors and tenants to its once-bustling downtown. Hamilton  Anderson is one of the firms helping to shape its new face in an effort to reverse the exodus of businesses to the suburbs.

What Bussiere loves about her work is the range of projects she works on. “You’re constantly learning and it’s interesting.”

She also enjoys “the constant dialogue between you and the client and you and the contractor so that the work being done matches the needs, expectations and standards.”

The architecture of both Windsor and Detroit fascinates the grad. “I grew up in the area and want to learn more about its architectural background.” Of particular interest to her is Detroit, perceived by many to be on the cusp of a long-hoped for renaissance. During her UDM studies, projects frequently involved local sites in the Motor City.

 “I think it’s rare for an architectural program to focus on the Community aspect, and the need to create projects that benefit the community,” she says.

 “You came away from it with this sense that you have to be responsible with what you’re designing. We muse about the kinds of changes we can create as designers, architects, landscape architects and how we can tangibly change, because that’s what we’ve learned.”

 This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of View the University of Windsor Alumni Magazine.

More Than Counting Pills

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

 Salma Ghanie was introduced to pharmacy work through a Which Career is Right for You? test in Grade 10. She had always had a fascination with medications and what they do to the human body, but had never known what to do with that fascination. When she took the test, most of her career results were something to do with the outdoors but, interestingly, one of the final ones was a “pharmacist”. Salma decided to act on this and in Grade 11 she tried a co-op placement at Shoppers Drug Mart, which she loved!  A few years later, that experience made applying for her program an easy choice.

 Salma studied at Fanshawe College for 2 years in the Pharmacy Technician program, and loved it: "It was hard and tough, for sure, but it was fun for me. There's a ton of math, chemistry, and pharmacology. We had a course on pharmacy law that was brutal. Like most people I always thought that a Pharm Tech just counted pills; but no, there is so much more to what I do than counting pills and putting a label on a vial or a box."

 In second year, Salma had the chance to experience both a hospital and retail placement opportunity. She did not find the retail portion very helpful, as she was only able to shadow, and didn't really gain any hands-on experience.  When asked what courses were particularly beneficial, Salma shared the following:  “Pharmacy law for sure, math, compounding (making drugs), pharmacology and the practical retail course I took, that course taught us so much. Retail Pharmacy, it was a two part course and taught us everything from, drug names, chemicals, Latin, math, communication, and how to count things properly."  She uses aspects of these every day.

 In spite of the retail placement not going so well, Salma grew to love the retail setting as, according to her, you actually get to see and interact with the people you're helping. In her current position at Shoppers Drug Mart in St. Thomas, Ontario, Salma does just that. Her day is filled with answering phones, processing and dispensing prescriptions, and communicating with doctors, patients, and customers alike. She shared the most rewarding part of the job: "I think the most rewarding thing is that once you get to know patients, they will confide in you and they will tell you what's on their mind and how they are feeling and it’s really nice knowing someone trusts you. Whether they are 30 or 85!  People know my name and when they want my help specifically, that’s when I know I've made a difference"

 As content as she is right now, Salma would like to continue up the ladder to be a full-fledged pharmacist. Her ultimate goal is to become a pharmaceutical chemist.

 As for advice, Salma says you have to be caring and compassionate, as well as know how to multi-task with things like phone conversations and counting pills and dosages at the same time. Patience is also key when the pharmacy is busy. If you are not good with math, a pharmacy is not the place for you. It is also necessary to learn how to read “doctor scribble”. As hard as some of this may seem, Salma says it all comes together with practice.  

Science Journalism: Misha’s Story

I always loved writing and telling stories. My mum used to find hand written notes all around the house from me but I never really imagined it would become my career.

Today I’m a science journalist, which is like a regular journalist but I just focus on reporting scientific news.

But let’s go back a bit.

Before I became a journalist I did a double degree in business and psychology at Western University.  While I was doing my undergraduate degree I volunteered for the school’s newspaper, writing for the Arts & Lifestyle section.  I loved how I got to go to different places and meet the most extraordinary and unique people.

Then during my last semester of undergrad I went on an exchange to London, England. While I was there I got involved with the student radio station.  I had so much fun there, even if I did hate the sound of my voice reverberating back at me through the headphones. It was while volunteering at the radio station that I discovered that the school I was doing my exchange at had one of the best journalism programmes in the country.

After finishing my undergrad I was unsure of what I wanted to do.  I came from a family of business people, but I was 100 per cent certain I didn’t want to work in business. I had loved the psychology part of my degree and I loved writing and being on the radio, so it seemed only natural to combine my two passions into a career.

With that I then ended up doing a Masters in science journalism at City University London. It was an intensive year where I learnt everything about TV, radio, print and online journalism, learning all the skills I needed to become a proper journalist.

During my Masters I also had the opportunity to work for the BBC and a television production company. Both experiences were incredible. The BBC was hectic and everything I imagined a proper newsroom would be. The television production company was filled with the most creative people who spend most of their time in a room thinking up mad ideas for television programmes.   

Now I work for Cancer Research UK, one of the world’s biggest charities, as their science media officer. I essentially try and make the science behind cancer research easily understandable to anyone.

No two days are the same. I write, make videos and do a bit of everything in between.  I love the variety of work I get to do and the challenges that get thrown my way.

My day usually starts with me going through that morning’s news to make sure I know what’s happening.

Sometimes there’s a story that we will need to respond to. For example, a few weeks ago the Daily Mail ran a story about how oxygen causes lung cancer. So my team quickly wrote a post explaining why that study was poorly done and why you won’t in fact get lung cancer from breathing.

But usually I’m just reporting on an academic paper that’s about to be published. When writing a news story I get to talk to scientists and experts in their field and I get to learn so much about what other people are passionate about. I love immersing myself in a new subject.

Since becoming a journalist I’ve learnt so many strange and wonderful things. I’ve learned about nuclear waste policy, urban beekeeping and even about novel drugs for llamas.

 A time when I really get to dig my heels into a subject is when I’m writing a blog post. These articles go more in depth about a topic and they take on a more chatty tone of voice. I really get to flex my creative muscles by trying to make the story as engaging as possible. I also get to do a bit of investigative work and uncover things which is always really exciting.

Making videos also give me a great chance to be creative because it can be hard to make research about little cells visually engaging.  So I really need to think outside the box and work with a variety of people, like animators and data visualisation specialists. And an added bonus with videos is you get to go to some pretty cool places.

So my advice for anyone who wants to become a science journalist is first, love science but have a healthy sense of scepticism (not all science is great). Second, write for anything and everything! Get as much experience as you can. And finally, it helps if you’re insatiably curious, tenacious and unrelentingly when it comes to getting a story you want.

Misha Gajewski


Volunteer Soars with Wild Ontario

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Samantha “Sam” Manner works as volunteer Team Leader for the Wild Ontario program in the city of Guelph, where she is also attending university. Currently, Sam is working towards her Bachelor of Science. Her major is animal biology and her minor is in nutrition. Her future plans include either to attend the Ontario Veterinary College or to “work in the field of animal behaviour and welfare”. Although Sam has a very busy student life, she is still able to volunteer with the Wild Ontario program at least 4 times a week! Part of why Sam finds volunteering so rewarding is that she gets to educate the public while working with her team at Wild Ontario.

“I manage the daily health, training, and nutrition of a non-releasable American Kestrel, named Artemis, while also overseeing three of her other handlers. With our ten non-releasable birds of prey, Wild Ontario travels across the province delivering educational programs to the public on a variety of topics ranging from: ornithology, [the study of birds] ecology, conservation and stewardship.”

Artemis is considered to be “non-releasable”, which means that she will never be able to live in the wild. Now, with the help of Sam and her other handlers, she “is serving as an ambassador for her species through her story.” Sam relates Artemis’ story below:

“Artemis is a 5 year old female American Kestrel, the smallest falcon species in North America. Unfortunately, Artemis was taken from the wild at a young age and was likely being kept as a pet by someone. Housing wildlife without proper licensing is illegal. As a consequence of people taking her from the wild, she did not get the opportunity to learn the skills she would need to survive in the wild. In 2009, Artemis was surrendered to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Here, they do tests to determine the bird’s fear of humans. Artemis was not afraid of humans and willingly took food from [them], which means it would be dangerous for her and for humans if she was released back to the wild.”

Sam has a few favourite things about volunteering with Wild Ontario and they involve working with others in the program as well as with the public. She tells us that, “One of my favourite things is working with my team towards a training goal for either the bird or the handler and seeing all that hard work come to fruition. At the programs we deliver, one of my favourite things is sharing information about the birds with members of the public and having them get really excited and wanting to share what they learned with all of their family and friends.”

For anyone who is interested in getting involved with Wild Ontario, Sam advises that it is a “big-time commitment”. Potential volunteers should be mindful that they will be required to dedicate a certain amount of their time to the program. If you wish to apply, you should either live in Guelph, Ontario or “have the ability to travel to Guelph at least 4 times a week.” The volunteer application and more information about the program can be found on their website, .

Ever considered Pharmacy? Megan’s Story

By Alexandria Friesen, WorkStory Ambassador

Meet Megan. Megan is a Pharmacy Manager at DMC Pharmacy. She has worked there for 2 and a half years. Upon completion of high school she continued directly to post-secondary education at the University of Windsor where she studied as a Biochemistry Major. After completing two years in her undergraduate studies she moved onto Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan to complete her Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She studied at Wayne State for four years.

While Megan didn’t know at a very young age what she wanted for an adult career, she decided that pharmacy was for her after meeting with her high school guidance counsellor. Thinking long-term, she knew that she wanted a career that could complement the life of a mother and she had always enjoyed the sciences thoroughly. In order to determine if this was the path she wanted to begin working towards, she acquired a job at a pharmacy while she was in university. Turns out, she really enjoyed it!

Although Megan is in the field that she loves, her road to get there wasn’t always the smoothest. Of course, becoming a pharmacist is no easy task – as with many careers, it takes a lot of late nights and a lot of hard work. Luckily, Megan knew that pharmacy is what she wanted to pursue as a career and focused very hard during her undergraduate degree to ensure she would have the marks to get into pharmacy school. What would she change? Distractions! “[In pharmacy school] I had too many distractions while in school”, she said, “and probably could have done better academically had I focused more on my studies than other things”.

As you will probably hear from many people, the environment in which you work can have a significant impact on your feelings toward your job! While Megan has always wanted to be a pharmacist, the pharmacy she worked at previously was a more stressful environment so she wasn’t always able to enjoy her job as much as she could have. However, she has moved to a different location since then and loves where she is at!

Above all else, “trust your instincts and never second guess what you think is best for you”.  Definitely some words of wisdom we can all use! Thanks Megan!

A Steward of Sustainable Development

By Bob Florence, Green &White

Her friends took lunch to school in paper bags. Sarah Hughes used Tupperware. They cleaned their homes with commercial detergent. Sarah’s mom, Anne, stuck with vinegar.

“It’s not like we were hippies, but I did grow up on a wooded acreage, more of a natural setting,” said Hughes, who is from Newmarket, Ont.

“My mother is aware of the environment. My grandmother taught me about different birds and wildflowers. In my high school yearbook, for my probable job I said I think I’ll be an environmental scientist.”

Hughes reaches for the sky.

She is an ecotoxicologist studying the effects of chemicals in the air we breathe, in the water we drink and in the soil where our food grows. She does environmental hazard and risk assessment for Shell. The energy and petrochemical company hired her after she completed the toxicology graduate program at the University of Saskatchewan.

Hughes (MSc’05, PhD’08) is one of Shell’s three ecotoxicologists in Houston, Texas. The other six are in England. Together they support Shell’s activities in more than 70 countries, reviewing company research and testing new materials and planned projects. Their motto is “scrub clean,” making sure business follows the environmental rules governments set for industry.

“On any given day I might work on five different projects,” said Hughes. “Every chemical is different. Every environment is different.

“Hazard and risk is what we look at. We evaluate the inherent hazardous properties of a chemical and estimate the expected exposures to fish, insects and plants. Together these components allow us to derive the expected environmental risk of a Shell project, operation or business. Based on the environmental risks we find, our team then makes suggestions to make design changes to remove the environmental risks to acceptable levels.

“Sometimes what I do is like a puzzle, a little CSI.” Hughes watches CSI:. On the TV crime series cases are solved in an hour. “If grad school was that easy I’d be done in a year,” she said.

Raised in Ontario and now living in Texas, she keeps connected to Saskatchewan. Hughes is an adjunct professor in the Department of Soil Sciences at the U of S. She also advises a toxicology student in Saskatoon doing a master’s thesis on oil sands development. In her own PhD thesis, Hughes looked at how wetland plants deal with napthenic acids, a by-product of making petroleum in the oil sands.

Then there is Estevan, Sask.

The power station at Boundary Dam near Estevan is being retooled. The goal is to capture 90 per cent of the carbon dioxide the plant belches. The captured gas will be stored and used to recover oil in nearby oil fields in Canada and the United States.

Cansolv Technologies of Montreal landed a contract with SaskPower to deliver the carbon capture know-how. Because Shell owns Cansolv, Hughes is part of the package. For the last two years she has steamed ahead in testing the Boundary Dam plan.

“This is getting a lot of global attention,” Hughes said. “It’s the world’s first and largest integrated carbon capture project, combining post-combustion capture of CO2 with coal-fired power generation. I help Cansolv ensure its technology is safe [to the environment].”

She looks at offshore oil work as well. Shell is into more than oil and gas, though. It is a petrochemical company. The products Shell makes and the job she does affect all of us, from the lubricant a barley farmer in Hafford uses in his tractor to the laundry detergent for a family in Calgary to the polymer in soccer jerseys worn around the world.

As Hughes develops her expertise in the field, we deal with the practical everyday implications. Her challenge is to find a way for a company to be both cost-efficient and environmentally friendly with products we use.

“I’m practical,” said Hughes, who bought her first car when she moved to Houston. “I understand in the world we live in we can’t go back to the stone-age. But we can do things more sustainably, more intelligently.

“Coming out of school I had technical knowledge. That is academia. This is the real world. I learn new things and gain new wisdom. My message to toxicology graduate students and faculty is continue to try new projects. Be sure to keep the real world in perspective with science. Don’t be afraid to jump outside your area of expertise and add to your knowledge.

“To a general audience I’d say don’t take things blindly. Give some critical thought to both sides of any story, particularly on environmental issues. Be an educated consumer.”

Think of Paracelsus, said Hughes. He was a German-Swiss physician and alchemist in the 1500s. A line he said 500 years ago applies today. He said all substances are toxic; the dose is what makes the poison.

Hughes knows Paracelsus. She remembers Saskatchewan.

“There is a subtle beauty to the prairie,” she said. “I bike a lot, and when I was in Saskatchewan we would call biking into the wind a Saskatchewan hill.

“The neatest thing about my experience at the U of S was interacting with people and the good friendships formed. In grad school we called ourselves the urban family because we spent so much time together.

“I wish I had crazy tales of what has taken me from point A to point B. Being aware of the environment is what I grew up with. I read [American conservationist] Rachel Carson in high school. [That] was formative for me.

“I told my guidance counsellor in high school I was interested in an environment job. I didn’t know what toxicology was.”

Now she most definitely knows.


Reprinted with permission  of Green & White  ©University of Saskatchewan