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Unlocking the mysteries of the human mind

December 9, 2021

Bachelor of Science student Emily Mahony shares her story

Emily Mahony is a second-year Bachelor of Science student who is focusing on Biology and Chemistry with a special interest in the brain and its functions. We asked her what her educational experience has been like so far and where she draws her inspiration.

What inspired you to pursue post-secondary?

My Grandpa Mahony inspired me to enroll in higher education as he has always been a huge supporter of mine and encourages me to achieve my dreams. I chose science as my area of focus since I enjoyed all the science classes I took in high school, and I love learning about how things work. It is fascinating to me that humans and bacteria are similar in our life processes so learning more about that and everything that is needed to make life work is extremely interesting. As well, I enjoy learning about the how one small difference in a molecule can be the difference between something toxic and something lifesaving.

What part of your studies are you most excited about?

I’m looking forward to learning about the brain and all its functions! It is so fascinating how this one organ sends out all of these signals and triggers chemical processes within our bodies to keep us alive every day, and somehow knows exactly what every cell inside me needs at any given moment in time, all the while simultaneously controlling my speech, thoughts and movements. I am also excited to participate in the study abroad program at VIU next year. I am currently looking at travelling to Norway or Sweden for the fall semester and then going to the University of Cork in Ireland for the spring semester if I can!

What do you want to do for a career?

Right now, I am hoping to go into the neurology field to do research on the brain and perhaps develop medications and treatments for brain-related diseases. This is important to me personally because my aunt passed away from brain cancer, and her diagnosis piqued my interest in the brain’s function and how even under the distress of a tumour, her brain was still able to control her everyday movements all the while fighting off a disease. My great-grandma also had dementia and although it is currently incurable, to be able to find something that would make life even a small bit easier for people like her would be fulfilling. I would love to be able to further understand the brain and look into chemical and biological processes or treatments that could help people either to overcome brain illness, or to ease their quality of life.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Currently, I am most proud of being awarded the Arnold MacDonald Tedford Memorial Bachelor of Science Award (given to female students at VIU in the Bachelor of Science program who are enrolled in Chemistry courses. Selection is based on financial need and academic achievement). Receiving the award has allowed me to pay for this year of study without needing to worry about taking on more shifts at work, so it has freed up time for me to focus on my classes so that I can learn and do well in them.

Can you share an experience where one of your profs made an impact on your learning experience?

I have two experiences to share. The first was my Chem 142 prof, Dr. Heather Wiebe, who gave me the opportunity to intern with her over the summer as a research assistant. I learned valuable skills around computational chemistry, teamwork and communication. This opportunity also gave me a chance to try out an aspect of chemistry I hadn’t previously considered. Another Chemistry Professor, Dr. Jessie Key, helped me by providing me with some things I could do to push past my test anxiety so I could give my best effort on tests instead of feeling rushed and panicked. From the first test in his class (before I asked for help) to the second test (after I asked for help) I saw a huge difference. I was calmer and able to focus on answering the questions.

What advice would you give to first-year students just getting started?

Make sure you have time where you aren’t working, or in class, or doing homework because it is very important to have time to do things you enjoy throughout the week that isn’t to do with school. I would also say, get to know your profs. They are all approachable and want to help and see you succeed, so talk to them, ask for help or just wave when you see them. Finally, make sure your schedule is reasonable, and if possible give yourself enough time between classes for a snack and to walk at a normal pace to your next class because climbing the stairs in five minutes to get to class is definitely not ideal!

Can you give us three random facts about yourself?

  • I did artistic swimming for 13 years and participated in a national level training camp.
  • I travelled to Italy and Greece in Grade 11, which sparked my interest in travelling.
  • I have a chihuahua/shi-tzu cross dog who enjoys helping me study.

What’s next for you after finishing your VIU program?

I am honestly not sure what’s next. I still have at least three years to figure that out! However, I would like to be working in a field of interest, so currently something to do with the brain, and I would also like to pursue a master’s level of education.

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