Beyond the Classroom
Developing the Next Generation of Science Leaders Outside of the Lab

Developing the Next Generation of Science Leaders: Student Groups, Hackathons and International Exchanges

After the Faculty of Science became its own entity in 2012, separate from the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science, a new challenge arose: creating extracurricular experiences tailored to science students.

Julia Pia, chemistry alumna and second president of the Ryerson Science Society at the time, recalls: “The 2017 student referendum was a turning point for the FOS student body. The Ryerson Science Society became a formalized governing body, undergraduate course unions and student groups were brought under one umbrella, and the doors opened to significant increases in funding for academic and social initiatives.”

Since then, the RSS was renamed to the Undergraduate Science Society of Toronto Metropolitan, and the FOS student community has continued to flourish in developing next-generation scientists and leaders.

Pamela Wettlaufer
Pamela Wettlaufer
“Throughout my time at FOS, I’ve seen a huge increase in student-led initiatives. Our students are hosting hackathons, conferences and industry events, and representing TMU at international competitions. They’re forming groups to foster career interests, creativity and design, and supporting mental health and marginalized groups in STEM. The growth and enrichment have been fantastic!”

— Pamela Wettlaufer
Manager, Student Relations & Development

Student groups

There are now 29 separate student-led groups, including 7 undergraduate course unions. Their breadth spans three main areas: specialty interest, skills-based and equity groups.

Ayshin Mehrabi
Ayshin Mehrabi
“I came alone as an international student from Iran. But the environment at TMU was so warm and welcoming. I got very involved with student groups and met friends who have become my second family. Now, I’m president of the Premedical Society and VP of Communications for my program’s course union. I’m so happy I branched out!”

— Ayshin Mehrabi
Biomedical Sciences student

Club Highlight: RMU Rams Robotics (R3)

In 2019, the group placed 2nd at world-renowned University Rover Challenge, held annually in the desert of southern Utah. Their design-and-build of a Mars exploration rover raised their result up from 21st place only two years prior in 2017.

Competitions, hackathons & special events

Each year, FOS students are busy in activities that enrich their professional, social and personal development. Some happen on campus; others further afoot. Local favourites include Orientation, year-end Science Formal, course union Industry Nights, Biomedical Innovation Night and Professor Meet-and-Greet. Others have led FOS students to far corners of the globe and into exciting new directions.

Helen Melino
Helen Melino
“Extracurricular activity has helped me grow in so many ways! I’m an intramural athlete, co-captain of TMU’s competitive dance team, and co-president of my program’s course union. A major highlight was co-chairing the 2021 Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference, hosting it at TMU for the first time in the conference’s 57-year history.”

— Helen Melino
Medical physics student

Tony Huynh
Tony Huynh
“I had no coding experience when I arrived at TMU in 2016. Through the Competitive Programming Club, I began competing at the International Collegiate Programming Contests, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious. Today, I’m working at Amazon as a software engineer. Coding contests were helpful for getting me here!”

— Tony Huynh
Computer Science ‘21
Software Development Engineer, Amazon Web Services

Event Highlight:
RU Hacks
Hackers participated globally in 2021
in prizes awarded

Training tomorrow’s leaders

Student governance took a step forward in 2021 with the new Leader’s League program — jointly organized by the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Engineering & Architectural Science. The first cohort received their certifications after meeting training standards in leadership skills such as project management, conflict resolution and community care.

“The Leader’s League program was very interactive. It helped me understand myself better as a leader and see areas for improvement. I realized that governance doesn’t always have to be so serious — it can be fun and exciting!”

— Nzonzila Mundele
Biomedical sciences student

Students helping students

Despite pandemic lockdowns, students came together to support their peers. In 2020/21, the faculty introduced its own internal peer mentorship program (Peer Academic Leaders in Science). Through social media engagement and virtual sessions, upper-year students are helping new FOS students learn the ropes at TMU.

“University is a place for academic and personal growth — and first year sets the foundation and tone. As a peer mentor, I can share tips and perspectives. Guiding new students is very fulfilling and makes their first year so much fun!”

— Jamie Rice
Biomedical sciences student

International experiences

FOS students have crisscrossed the globe in pursuit of science. Since 2013/14, the faculty has steadily expanded its Global Science Citizen program offering international course or research-based scientific exchanges. In 2022/23, the program will send 18 students abroad — our largest cohort ever. As of 2022:

  • 15 partner institutions across 6 continents
  • Destinations: U.K., France, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, India, South Africa and Brazil
  • 85 students have traveled abroad on outbound exchanges
  • 90 students have been hosted at FOS on inbound exchanges
“Researching in England was an opportunity of a lifetime. I shadowed cancer researchers in the School of Pharmacy at University College London, learned the basics of x-ray crystallography, and grew crystals of different designs under various chemical conditions. It was the highlight of my undergraduate experience!”

—  Thi Duyen Nguyen
Biology ’20

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