Faces of BME – Samantha S.

MASc candidate from Frank Gu Lab

Youth Science Canada & Samantha Stuart

Ultimately my goal is to build a career in innovation through data, so I am thrilled this summer to be working as a data science intern with Amazon Web Services, as part of the Professional Services team.  I entered my graduate studies with an interest in both biomaterials science and data science. My project is focused on understanding and predicting macromolecular polymer-protein binding interactions, towards the aim of improving the clinical translation of drug delivery systems. 

While this past year has been anything but typical, my project requires a mix of laboratory work and computational work through programming with Python. With some careful scheduling and COVID-19 preparedness last semester, I was often in the laboratory performing experiments 2 days a week, helping build a library of raw data. In the remainder of the time, I have been focused on writing re-useable and maintainable Python modules for processing experimental data into a labelled format for machine learning, and building initial modelling pipelines.

As someone who benefitted hugely while in high school from participating in outreach programs, paying it forward to lift the next generation has always been important to me. Since 2014, I have planned dozens of STEM outreach events with various organizations, given an outreach TEDx talk, volunteered, and mentored students who came my way to help them find what they are looking for.

When I first started doing outreach, it was the disconnect between high school student ambitions and the actuality of engineering careers that really surprised me. Outdated professional stereotypes, and a lack of early visibility into career opportunities on the other side of an engineering degree can turn young students, particularly those from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds away from engineering unnecessarily. I struggled with this too when starting out, and it was great mentors and positive role models that helped me find my way. I hope my outreach work helps do the same for others. 

Having a place to explore and celebrate science and creative ideas without bounds unleashes some incredible projects from the students who attend. There is nothing in your way as a student researcher – you can take bigger risks, ask bigger research questions, the downside is low if you fail, and the incentives for creative iteration are all there. The result is a vibrant nexus that inspires attendees to think big and believe in the power of self-learning. The finalists will carry this mentality with them for the rest of their careers – and I believe they will innovate relentlessly because of it.  

The Canada-Wide Science Fair is Youth Science Canada’s weeklong flagship event, which features projects from Canada’s most promising young scientists and innovators. Every year, roughly 500,000 K-12 students in Canada do a STEM project, and the top ~500 projects of this cohort from Grade 7-12 congregate annually at the CWSF. Attending is the same adrenaline rush of being at a competitive sports tournament – only with more science, and youth companionship from nearly every region across the country.

Link to see information from the 2021 Virtual Fair: https://youthscience.ca/science-fairs/cwsf/ottawa-2021/