Continuing from my previous post, what ultimately helped to navigate my academic career towards science was a fantastic science teacher I had in Grade 10. He did two things that caught my attention most.

First, our year-long assignment was to bring articles about science in the news, and each week, my teacher would pick the most interesting news and breakthroughs to share with our class to discuss the findings and their significance. This opened our eyes to the idea that science was more than what we learned in our textbooks—it’s what is happening all the time and has major implications on health, economics, politics, and in our everyday lives.

The second significant event for me was our introduction to genetics. As part of the curriculum, we studied basic genetics, which is the study of heredity or the relationship between DNA, the genes it codes, and the external features we subsequently observe, i.e. your genes are responsible for characteristics like your eye and hair colour.

This idea that each of my cells is made up of genetically coded traits passed on through generations of my ancestors was and is fascinating to me. But at the same time, we learned the flip side of this where you can sometimes develop a mutation also passed down from an ancestor. I wanted to understand how these mutations, or diseases, worked, and how to cure them. I was hooked.


Courteney Lai, Graduate Student (PhD), Terry Fox Laboratory, BC Cancer Agency Research Centre; and President, Graduate Student and Post Doctoral Society of the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre