Preet Chatha, Level III Biochemistry, interviews and reports | Linda Dao
How do you feel getting into this program as a recent
undergraduate, considering there are only 100 matriculants,
many of whom are established professionals in their fields?
Nervous, but at the same time looking forward to it! At first, I
wasn’t nervous at all and was rather excitedly looking forward to
this opportunity to meet lots of new people who have so much
experience, and whom I can learn so much from. Then, one of my
friends told me that I’d have a fair bit of trouble adapting to the way
everyone there may treat me. She said that with the large amounts
of group work might come some condescension and possibly
friction. I decided that it was definitely something I should watch
out for, but shouldn’t let deter me from applying!
What do you plan on doing after your degree at the
International Space University?
Three goals: firstly, becoming a flight surgeon and doing research
about space spin-offs to help circumvent health problems both
in microgravity environments and on Earth; secondly, create
countermeasures to astronaut health data confidentiality for
different perspectives and analysis to be performed; and lastly,
establish a bridge of space-related internships between Canada
and the USA. Overall, those are the three main goals, along with an
ambition of improving space science education in Canadian post-secondary institutions. The lack of different space courses causes
students to be less interested in it, and low interest, in turn, results
in less funding for scholarships and space programs. This becomes
a vicious cycle where students are eventually led to believe that
their job prospects in space are practically nil.
Who is an ideal figure that you consider to be a role model
in your educational career or field so far?
There are lots of people I consider as role models. I can name a
few, but the truth is there are so many people that have helped me
get through all the adversities to shape who I am today. Among my
role models is Chris Hadfield, as he was the person who sparked my
interest in space. Through my failure of his performed experiment,
he taught me to never think of my goals as an endpoint, rather the
starting line to accomplishing something more. I took his advice to
heart and applied it to my life.
Another person I consider a role model is Dr. Shawna Pandya,
who is an International Space University alumnus, physician and
citizen astronaut just to name a few roles! With her number of
diverse achievements at such a young age, she inspires me to do
more and keep striving for success.
Lastly, I would name my friends as a special reason for my
success. Everyone knows that your family is always there for you,
but your friends know you on a deeper, personal level. Thanks to my
friends I’ve been able to overcome many challenges at school, the
workplace, and life in general.
How do you maintain a school/life balance?
The two are related, and for that reason, I think of it not as a
balancing task but rather getting everything you need. I definitely
feel the need to study to complete my schoolwork, but I adjust my
timings if I start feeling the need for some extra interaction with
friends. The same goes for extracurricular activities. When I feel
my recent participation in the community is lacking, I start doing
more within my clubs of interest, such as United Way at McMaster
and MOON Club in the past. Even though I kept my schoolwork
moving around to meet the less flexible timings of extracurriculars
and gatherings with friends, in the end, I always ensured that my
assignments were completed.
What advice would you give to undergrads?
My first tip would be to do what you need to do in order to do
what you want to do! Your opportunities are all around you, all
you have to do is find them. Second, I feel like a lot of undergrads
are conflicted about what they want to do and this is because
what they study is what they like, but they’re not sure if they
want to do it for life. For those who are conflicted, I would say to
explore your interests and your career path that you’ve laid out
for yourself. However, be sure to step out of your comfort zone
as well and do something you hate. I initially found space to be
difficult when I encountered it in elementary and middle school. I
hadn’t the faintest desire to academically pursue it, but my mind
changed when I decided to give it a shot and be open-minded
about what it had to offer in terms of knowledge and application.
As time went on, I realized I liked learning about space and
started asking questions about what would happen in certain
situations in space. The answers weren’t important, it was the
fact that I wanted to know. That’s when I realized I actually liked
this topic and I wanted to pursue it further. In short, if you do
something you hate, you never know what could really happen or
where it’ll take you.
alumni update (continued)
Continued from previous page