Preet Chatha, Level III Biochemistry, interviews and reports | Linda Dao
Linda Dao was an undergraduate student at McMaster and
has recently graduated from Biochemistry with many
accomplishments to her name already. She designed her
very own experiment that was selected by the Canadian
Space Agency to be performed by Chris Hadfield up on
the International Space Station (ISS). Not long ago, she was
accepted to the International Space University amongst
100 others with a full scholarship to the Summer Space
Program. She is off to Israel in July 2016 to study at the
organization and will begin her Masters of Space Sciences
in September at another institute that is located in France.
What would you say motivated you most to go into space
When I was eight years old and living in Edmonton, Alberta I
was observing the sky one day and saw a hint of green. I thought
to myself, the sky isn’t usually green at night, it’s rather dark!
Fascinated by what looked something like the northern lights, I
started investigating further into what I could have seen, but this
spectacle had soon disappeared. This was my first exposure to the
vast potential of space.
By the time first-year came along, I realized I was interested
in space as I became more and more intrigued with the things
we did not know about it. For the time being, I treated it like a
hobby, as I was still in the physical sciences and my goal was
to become a dentist, which had been my dream since Grade 2!
The major push came when my brother suggested that maybe
I was too closed-minded and that I should expand my horizons.
At that point, I started to think of ways in which I could integrate
my interest in space with my current education path. At the end
of first-year, I narrowly chose biochemistry over astrophysics,
because biochemistry had a more interdisciplinary approach, which
provided me with an opportunity to advance in both fields, and I
also had freedom to do a minor. I continued to look for opportunities
regarding space and stumbled across a competition organized by
the Canadian Space Agency. It was a competition where you had
to design a short experiment that an astronaut gets to do in space.
I gave myself a chance and designed an experiment pertaining to
the surface tension of fluids in space. Remarkably, it was picked
by a panel of judges, including Jeremy Hansen, and Chris Hadfield,
who was an astronaut up at the ISS at the time, and set to perform
my experiment! Even though it didn’t turn out the best, it was a
great experience. Chris Hadfield gave me a phone call afterward
and we talked about the experiment. Shortly after, I got invited
to the Canadian Space Agency in Quebec to see his landing and
later again for another space conference! By then, I was sure of
my interest in space and wanted to try my luck at the International
Space University program!
What was your vision when you chose Biochemistry at
McMaster University and what do you find exciting about
I chose Biochemistry at McMaster because I felt that it was a
great program with lots of opportunities for growth and career
development. I feel Biochemistry is a great field because it teaches
invaluable practical skills that you can use in any career whether it
be in law, space, medicine, physics, etc. I had the goal of becoming
a dentist in mind when I chose to attend McMaster, and I planned
to use the interdisciplinary skills I gained from Biochemistry
towards success in professional school.
Do you think Biochemistry at McMaster has prepared you
for what you’re about to do?
Yes! I’m really happy that I chose Biochemistry at McMaster. From
the beginning, they put you straight into a lab and teach you all
these hands-on skills that you can use in research opportunities
and everywhere else. Additionally, you have Dr. Felicia Vulcu
guiding you, who right from the start makes learning fun! You
also get a chance to present your research findings and practice
your interpersonal skills in many of the Biochemistry core courses.
The steady workload also helped me develop a strong work ethic.
Putting it all together, I would say Biochemistry advances all of
your skills, including knowledge, communication, critical thinking,
and lab-based abilities. By the time you graduate, you will have the
essentials to do whatever you want.
Linda Dao (left) with Preet Chatha