Mac students inspire next-gen scientists at John Abbott Sustainability Through Science Symposium 

Published: 2 May 2024

Pictured (from left to right): McGill/Mac representatives Ingrid Chiraz and Andrew Churchill; grad students: Jasmine Muszik, Mehtab Singh, Aylish Marshall; JAC representatives Sean Hughes and Karim Jaffer

By Kathy MacLean

In the dynamic landscape of scientific inquiry, effective communication is not merely an option; it's a necessity. Bridging the gap between complex research and broader audiences fosters understanding, sparks curiosity, and drives positive change.

With this in mind, the Lister Family Engaged Science Initiative went on the road to showcase science and the young passionate scientists driving it forward.

During the John Abbott College Sustainability Through Science Symposium, the 18-year-old audience was treated to captivating research stories by Macdonald Campus graduate students Jasmine Muszik, Mehtab Singh, and Aylish Marshall, and had the opportunity to gain peer-to-peer insight into future career paths.

"Animal welfare and sustainability are intertwined pillars of responsible stewardship. My research on animal emotion, particularly focusing on frustration in dairy cows, highlights the importance of addressing their emotional needs for a more sustainable and compassionate future." —Jasmine Muszik, PhD Candidate (Animal Science/Supervisor Elsa Vasseur)

Driven by curiosity and a passion for learning, these Mac grad students were inspired to pursue careers in science from a young age. A thirst for knowledge ignited their interest in fields such as plant science and biology. Their journeys, shared at the symposium, shed light on the joy of scientific exploration and the excitement of continual discovery.

"Our research aims to revolutionize oat cultivation for both health and sustainability. By using gene editing to alter flowering time, we're developing oat cultivars adaptable to changing climates, eliminating the need for pre-harvest chemical desiccation. This innovation promises chemical-free production, ensuring a healthier future for both consumers and Canada's agricultural industry." —Mehtab Singh, Ph.D. candidate (Plant Science/Supervisor Jaswinder Singh)

What was truly exceptional about this event was the breadth of the work demonstrated, the degree of audience engagement, and the poise of our students in responding to thought-provoking questions on their research.

"The transition from learning science in school to conducting research reveals valuable lessons for aspiring scientists. It's essential to understand that not having all the answers is expected in the world of scientific exploration. Unlike the impression often given in school, scientists don't know everything. Part of the process involves experimenting, learning from failure, adapting, and trying again. The key is approaching science with an open mind, embracing curiosity, and being willing to explore different fields. Confidence, flexibility, and a willingness to learn from others are crucial traits for a successful scientific career, regardless of age and expertise." —Aylish Marshall, M.Sc. student (Natural Resource Sciences/Supervisor Jessica Head)

Lister Chats, also hosted by John Abbott College a few days ago, featured four captivating talks by other Macdonald Campus graduate students and was held in conjunction with Quebec's 24 Hours of Science initiative.

Science communication initiatives are pivotal in fostering dialogue, curiosity, and innovation in a world shaped by scientific advancements. By empowering researchers to communicate their work effectively, we enrich public understanding and pave the way for a brighter, more informed future.

About the Lister Family Engaged Science Initiative

Generously supported by the late E. Edward, BSc (Agr)'55, MSc'57, and his wife, Teresa, the Lister Family Engaged Science Initiative has propelled over 200 workshops, coaching sessions, and events providing dynamic science communication training. With a focus on honing content, developing a dynamic presence, creating compelling visuals, engaging the audience, and managing speaking anxiety, the program has empowered more than 1600 students and researchers at McGill University's Macdonald Campus to make their science accessible across diverse audiences.

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