My Summer of Science in London, England!

By James Burns, Graduate of the Biology Program, Faculty of Science 

My global experience with Ryerson began last summer after my 3rd Year when I travelled to London, England on a research experience with the Global Science Citizen program through the Faculty of Science. My placement at the University College of London (UCL) School of Pharmacy, UK, found me working with Dr. Shozeb Haider in computational modelling.

When I first arrived I was welcomed with open arms by a fantastic group of post-grad and doctoral students from across Asia and Europe. We found common ground in the School of Pharmacy as our home-away-from-home and a constant environment of high energy, passion, and comradery.

It was great meeting students from the Erasmus program, which not unlike Ryerson’s program has global togetherness at its core with the goal of expanding our scholastic and cultural boundaries. The School of Pharmacy also overwhelmingly holds these values to heart, and I felt lucky every day to be among people that were brought together for science – building real friendships and memories in the process.

I had a lot of fun in London! Travelling to Brighton and other trips over weekends made sure I was taking as much away from the experience as possible. At the school, often during lunch, at the end of the day or on weekends we’d get together to explore the city of London as wide-eyed first-timers. Sharing phrases and foods from our home cultures at our international potlucks (a very Canadian term, apparently!) I learned about customs, art, and history from the European and Asian delegates. Visiting the plethora of London’s local museums and galleries free of charge was a unique and memorable experience for me.

One of my personal goals there was to explore what it was really like to apply myself in a functional lab setting.  I’ve always been keen to take things apart, build them back up, question everything and strive to decode the intricacies of the world around me. Since I was a kid I’ve always known that I wanted to “do science.” Even though that goal was nebulous and probably written in crayon at the time, I never really lost my motivation towards the idea of scientific exploration. My time at UCL helped crystallize my passion for scientific research. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and one British summer showed me what is possible.

The last month in England was a whirlwind of growth and hard work, spending the end of my time collaborating on a fascinating new project in molecular modelling. This new opportunity allowed me to put my coding and computer skills to the test with a dash of creativity and problem solving.

Since then, my research at UCL was accepted and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science – a goal of mine that I never thought I would hit as an undergrad. The shakeup that comes with travelling to a new place gave me the opportunity for new experiences and challenges, and with hard work and a little luck – great things happen!

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