Inclusion begins with encouraging and providing opportunities for everyone to get involved. On Wednesday, March 24, 2021, the Department of Biochemistry’s Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (WIDE) committee, held our department’s very first Biochemistry Day. The half-day event was designed in partnership with the University of Toronto, St. George Outreach Site of Let’s Talk Science (LTS), which is a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to promoting youth interest in science, tech, engineering, and math, with community engagement in mind. With the help of LTS, we worked with 7 educators across the GTA to create an online event offering for 20 youth and adult learner participants that was generously co-sponsored by the Centre for Community Partnerships and LTS.

The day was kicked off by Dr. Nana Lee, faculty WIDE member and life-long devotee to equity and diversity in all spaces, who introduced a panel of guests speaking on a broad range of scientific experiences. Dr. Pamela Alsabeh, an industry regulatory affairs professional at Roche Mississauga, shared how she applied her scientific training to her non-linear career path outside of the lab in the pharmaceutical industry. Next up was Biochemistry’s very own Dr. Haley Wyatt, who gave participants wonderful personal insight into her own journey to research scientist. Jasmine Ryu Won Kang brought her invaluable perspective as a Biochemistry undergraduate student to the table. The candid discussion unravelled the processes and possibilities of pursuing a career in science, spanning undergraduate applications to work-life balance in various scientific roles.

To give our guests a glimpse into the life of a Biochemistry grad student, WIDE members Zaky Hassan, Katrina Mekhail and Amy Wu held virtual tours of their scientific spaces in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and the MaRS Discovery District.  After that, guests got science-ready with complimentary Temerty Faculty of Medicine-emblazoned lab coats and their own scientific toolkits, before launching into the activity portion of the day. As researchers often learn and make discoveries through performing experiments, the attendees experienced firsthand what a research degree might entail. WIDE members Heather Lau, Alison Mao, Mikaela Palandra and Zaky Hassan led attendees through a mystery that relied on the identification of different macromolecules, before using potato-derived catalase to break down hydrogen peroxide in a deeper dive into enzymes and their activity. We closed off the event with an open talk session with WIDE members Zaky, Heather, Mikaela, Alison and Erin Gao, and LTS coordinator Sandhya Mylabathula. Over half of our guests stayed for a full hour after the event’s official closing and we loved being able to share our own scientific journeys with them.

With an overwhelmingly positive response from our educator partners and participants, WIDE remains committed to growing this event in the years ahead. Our thanks to our panelists, WIDE faculty and student volunteers, the generous support of CCP and tireless work of our co-organizer, Sandhya Mylabathula, on behalf of LTS. There’s a place for everyone in the Biochemistry department, and events like Biochemistry Day 2021 help get the word out.