Science & Tech

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Panel was made up of Midia Shikh Hassan, Cassidy Swanston and Nina Hadžimustafić

On Sept. 10, the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) hosted the Indigo Girls and Pulsar Collective speaker event. To promote and help women and non-binary individuals who are pursuing degrees in STEM.

The event included an all female speaker panel featuring Midia Shikh Hassan, CEO and co-founder of Dextra, Cassidy Swanston, executive director of Pulsar and a U of O graduate student, and Nina Hadžimustafić, operations director of Indigo Girls Group and a University of Toronto medical student.

Swanston opened up the presentation by speaking about her experiences as an undergraduate student, a masters student, and as one of the founders of the Pulsar Collective.

“I’ve done a lot of really amazing things, but the truth of the matter is that I certainly did not feel that way about it while I was in undergrad,” said Swanston. “It’s just kind of reflecting back on it now, [that] I’m able to appreciate it for what it was.”

The panel offered advice for students to make the most of their experience at the U of O, the biggest being to get involved in the school and the community. Whether it is playing on a sports team or joining a club, surrounding yourself with people you enjoy can improve your university experience.

“When people feel like they belong, they’re able to thrive and meet their full potential,” said Swanston.

Another piece of advice from the conference is to do what you love instead of only doing something because people say you need it, explained Hadžimustafić. 

“If you have no interest in volunteering in a hospital, please don’t because you won’t enjoy it, the patients you’re interacting with won’t enjoy it, and it will be a bad time for everyone.”

Having no definite career path in mind going into university was another aspect of the talk. The panelists emphasised allowing yourself to find your way through your experiences is one of the integral parts of university. staying open minded to different fields or skills can lead you to places you have never considered before.

In the final portion of the presentation, Hassan talked about her work with the non-profit organization, Dextra. Which provides prosthetic limbs to people in need. Hassan was awarded the Queen’s Young Leader Award in 2018, one of many global and local awards she’s received.

“Many of us are waiting for the best time or opportunity in life, or once we are done with school, or once we have gained an undergrad, or once we have found our first job, to be able to understand that we can make a difference and that we can start making some changes,” said Hassan.

From the talk, it was noted that reaching out to your professors is important as it can open up many opportunities for jobs or research in the future. Professors have a lot of resources available to them, and with all of the experience they have in their respective fields, they have great recommendations and advice to offer to students.

A great way to open a conversation with a professor is to look into their research and ask them questions about it. Build a connection with a professor and they will remember who you are out of the hundreds of students they have taught in their careers.

Included with the event was a navigation guide to various feminist organizations in Ottawa. Many of the groups listed are specific to different parts of STEM, like the uOttawa Women in Mathematics Club and uOttawa Women in Science and Engineering.

Others offer support for students who identify as members of a visible minority, such as Loud Black Girls, Latin American Women Support Organization (LAZO), and Immigrant Women Services Ottawa.

All three panelists closed their remarks with reminders to never be afraid to reach out. With so many groups available to support women and non-binary individuals in many different majors and backgrounds, there is always somewhere to feel welcome.