Science undergraduate student Valeria Narykina arrived at UBC with an open mind and aspirations to develop her skills as a leader. She talks about how she found her UBC community, the value of the co-op program, and how she plans to give back as a mentor.
Valeria came to UBC in search of a diverse university education – one that would expose her to new fields of interest, develop her leadership skills, and offer her formative experiences outside the confines of a traditional classroom. “For me, UBC seemed like the perfect place to fulfill my potential,” she says, “with its strong research faculties, tons of opportunities to get involved in student life, and of course, the location.”
“As a science nerd, I find it amazing that UBC hosts so many great researchers and Nobel laureates who give talks in different fields, from quantum physics to genetics. It exposes you to all the opportunities available to science students and makes you feel like you’re a part of the global scientific community.” – Valeria Narykina, Combined honours, Biochemistry and Chemistry
Having already lived away from home, and in multiple countries, moving house was a familiar feeling for Valeria. “The most surprising thing was the campus itself – it’s like a city within a city,” she says. Participating in Jump Start – the on-campus multi-day orientation for new students – made her transition “even easier” and helped acquaint her with UBC’s expansive Vancouver campus. The orientation was even the birthplace of her first UBC friendships.
As a Science undergraduate student, Valeria had already singled out Chemistry as her program of choice, but did not have a concrete career or goal in mind. First-year coursework strengthened this love of Chemistry, and also introduced her to its fascinating application to biological systems. From there, she found the Combined honours in Biochemistry and Chemistry, and dove head first into the science community.
Valeria’s co-op experience in Montreal
“Co-op was an invaluable experience that helped me decide what I wanted to do in the future. I am currently considering medicinal chemistry as my career.”
Where: Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research; Montreal, Canada
Position: Undergraduate research trainee, cancer research laboratory
Favourite moment: “[Montreal’s] proximity to other cities made it very easy to travel, and I got a chance to explore Ottawa, Quebec City, and even New York.”
Biggest takeaway: “This experience taught me how to manage my time wisely – since I was also taking online courses – and still fit my hobbies into a busy schedule.”
Best co-op advice: “Set goals for your co-op term and follow up on them. I wanted to work independently on a smaller project, and after several weeks of helping in the laboratory, I showed initiative and asked my supervisor about it. It is important to remember what your goals are and communicate them to your supervisor as often as you can.”
After joining the Undergraduate Chemistry Society (UCS) at the end of her first year – which she says was one of her best decisions at UBC – Valeria found opportunities to participate in chemistry research with top UBC professors. Through the UCS, she attended and helped organize events, and found support from her peers. “[The UCS] made me feel like I was a part of UBC’s chemistry community and made my transition into second year very smooth,” she says.
Now in her fifth year, Valeria’s UBC undergraduate experience has come full circle, and she volunteers as a Jump Start orientation leader, giving back to the first-year community where she began. “This also made me realize how much experience I’ve gained throughout my degree,” she says.
In that same vein of leadership and giving back, Valeria started a mentorship program for chemistry students, which pairs second-year chemistry majors with senior students, and launches this year. She’s also working on her thesis project and looking forward to a bright future in medicinal chemistry.