Shriya Baweja

Anatomy and Cell Biology Student, McGill University

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It is you, and you only, who can dictate your potential.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

It isn't necessarily the easiest thing for me to answer this question. As a Student, I guess what I do is "learn." The scope of learning in life is boundless and unfathomable, yet being a Student does not seem to encapsulate this essence entirely. As an aspiring surgeon, I know that perhaps one day I would have a designation I can jot down quickly when posed this question, but I also know that being a lifelong learner continues to be one of my grander ambitions. Today, I try and expand my horizons and stretch myself every single day. I am on a competitive Bollywood-fusion dance team. I pursue Korean as a Minor in University. I volunteer as a Research Assistant to enhance my comprehension of clinical dynamics. I tutor high-school students because of how rewarding I think it is. And, I find utmost joy and peace in spending time with my family. That is what I do!

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

A melange of factors have led to me deciding that my calling lies in medicine (the new M in STEMM). In retrospect, I think it's my Paediatrician who inspired my admiration for this field and she has always been my role model. My parents tell me stories of 4-year old me staying up at night practicing ABC's diligently as I feared not being able to become a doctor if I did not work hard enough. Even though the road to medicine appears to be just a tiny bit more complicated than mastering alphabets today, the drive, determination and desire to attain my goals have never been stronger. Studying Anatomy and Cell Biology has heightened my appreciation for the functioning of the human body on a cellular level. At the onset, I experienced an undercurrent of cognitive dissonance as I was expected to continuously learn about metabolic processes and cellular mechanisms I could not see with my naked eye. As absurd as it sounds, I had trouble coming to terms with the fact that I was supposed to blindly absorb knowledge I could not visibly corroborate. Nevertheless, the beauty of developing a questioning attitude is the impetus it creates to find my own answers and dig deeper into any and all doubts I have. This attitude has empowered me to constantly uncover the incredible intricacies of each and every single cell and the innumerable modes of operation in the human body. The best part is, the learning and element of surprise never ceases to persist with how complex human anatomy is!

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

Often times in life, human nature urges the imposition of labels. Are you a Science person or a Humanities person? Do you enjoy painting or calculus? Oh, you want to become a doctor? Well... you need to stop dancing so much! The truth is, you can do whatever it is you put your mind to. And, I mean WHATEVER. Growing up, I have had the most supportive parents, who have encouraged me to dabble in every pursuit that has ever crossed my mind. On Monday's I would learn martial arts, and on Tuesday's graceful Classical Indian Dance. I never saw the stark contrast between the two, because this is what I was taught was normal. If I wanted to excel in something, all I had to do is put my mind to it and work hard. As I grew a little older, I felt like people around me began conforming to labels. It got me thinking that maybe that was what was normative, and what I was supposed to do. Fortunately, I was never able to really choose what it was that I loved most. I loved everything I did. So, I wish younger me would have known that it truly is possible to do everything you are passionate about. No matter the combination or permutation people think sit well together, it is YOU who decides how to accessorize your portfolio of achievements in the most unique way possible.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

What I love most about STEM is how it has the potential to illuminate the intersection between objective facts and critical and creative thinking that sheds light on said facts. The ultimate aim of wracking our brains to solve the most convoluted of conundrums, excites me inexplicably. As a woman in STEM, I also must take this opportunity to celebrate the significant role that STEM plays in diminishing the equality gap between men and women in society today. STEM has urged novel ways of uniting individuals across disciplines, and being a member of this network of individuals in my own small way has altered my perspective of very many facets of life. I wake up every morning, mumbling to myself a chant my mom has taught me—"Today is going to be a beautiful, magical day. Something extraordinary is going to happen today." Seeking out the magic and being a part of the extraordinary is what keeps me going every single day. Side note - my mom also makes exceptional masala chai (tea with ginger and cardamom) every morning, and it would be a shame if I didn't mention that to be a big part of my eagerness to get out of bed every morning.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

Believe in yourself and your abilities, and have unbridled faith in conquering your dreams. It is you, and you only, who can dictate your potential. Do not let anyone tell you what you are or are not capable of. If STEM is a field that stimulates you intellectually, then pursue it with nothing but pride. I am confident it will push you to break barriers and build yourself to accomplish all that you can envision.

INSPO / FUN FACT

"Success is not a function of the size of your title but the richness of your contribution" - Robin Sharma

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