An Interview with Niki Oveisi, UBC Science Leader
Our October Leader in the Spotlight features Niki Oveisi, a UBC Honours Biology student who is a driven leader in the community. In addition to co-founding the Smiles Without Limits Foundation, Niki serves as an editor for the STEM Fellowship Journal, and Managing Director of External Communications and Chair Member for the World Awareness Initiative, while balancing work as a research assistant, and consultant for Nutrition House. In our interview, Niki discusses her decision to pursue a degree at UBC, and shares her advice on networking, and grant applications.
- How did you decide to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biology at UBC?
Deciding on UBC was easy: UBC has amazing programs for sciences; it is one of the top universities in Canada, and it is only 45 minutes from my parents’ house. The tougher decision was which major to pursue. UBC’s Faculty of Science offers many majors, which range from extremely competitive ones that cover very specific topics, and more general majors that provide you with freedom to choose your own courses.
As my goal is to pursue medicine at UBC, it was important to center my bachelor’s degree around this aspiration. Therefore, I chose Biology as my major, which provides me with the flexibility to select relevant courses I am interested in. Since medical school has removed all prerequisites, my major in Biology is perfect for me, because it gives me an overview of what medical school will encompass.
- How did you first get involved in STEM Fellowship? Tell us about your role on the Editorial Board.
I got involved with STEM Fellowship because of its amazing reputation amongst many of my peers who were already involved, and were helping to expand STEM Fellowship. I started out as an editor for the STEM Fellowship Journal. In this role, I work with a group of other editors and we ensure that all submissions are complete (including illustrations, references, and content), assign manuscripts to reviewers, forward the manuscripts for each issue on time according to the schedule of journal publishing, and inform the publisher of opportunities to improve the journal. This position is extremely dynamic and revolves around teamwork and communication.
- As the World Awareness Initiative’s Managing Director of External Communications and Chair Member, you apply for grants and network with other organizations. What advice do you have for networking with other organizations?
A large part of my job is to network with various organizations and clubs, and forge collaborations. In regards to networking, I would say that the best advice is to look close for collaborations. To build your network, start collaborating small. These small collaborations with local organizations will build into a mass network that can help build your reputation. Things like cross-promotions, branching out your network, and learning from the experiences of other organizations is vital to the growth of your own.
- What advice do you have for applying for grants?
Give yourself time! At first when you start applying for the grant, just read through the questions and discuss them with your team. Spend a few hours brainstorming, make notes, and organize them into an outline-then you’re done for the day! The next time, write a first draft. Don’t pay attention to your grammar or vocabulary; just write everything that is going through your mind. Give it a few hours, and ideally days; then, edit your work. Ensure that every statement connects back to your response to the main question!
After your initial edits, find as many people as you can to help edit, including co-workers, friends, and professors (especially professors!). The most important thing is to give yourself time for all of these steps. The more time you have, the more effort you can put in to ensure that your grant submission will be a success.
- What has been the best experience of your undergrad thus far? Why?
The best experience of my undergraduate degree thus far has been my work experience in the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. It has been an amazing experience to work as a laboratory and clinical research assistant on 4 research projects for the Alzheimer group.
In two of the studies, I work with biosamples from individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I have accumulated a number of technical and analytical skills through this portion of my job. The other two studies that I assist with has a greater clinical focus. These studies require organization, communication, and teamwork within the group. This experience has been an amazing opportunity, in which my admiration for research continues to flourish.