Bill Cade and Elsa Salazar Cade Scholarship in Evolutionary Ecology recipient Marissa Kamieniecki

Tell us about the opportunities you have had for experiential learning in biological sciences at the University of Lethbridge.

I had the opportunity to work with live tissue in the Animal Physiology lab portion with Dr. Randall Barley. It was an incredibly educational experience in which I learned so much about biology and different techniques. Live tissue is a true gift, you really don’t get much better than it. All of the other lab components of different biology courses were worth it as well. It was amazing to see paramecium, to watch cytoplasmic streaming, to dissect a preserved sea urchin, to code in R, and so much more. Biology labs also taught me how to use Excel and how to search online databases effectively.

What opportunities for research within biological sciences have you had, and how have these impacted you?

I didn’t choose the research path within biology, mostly because that isn’t where my interests lie. However, I’ve read many articles for various assignments, papers, and lab reports over the course of my degree, and I have learned so many fascinating things. If you’ve ever wanted to know why or how something happens in the natural world, there’s likely a biology paper to explain it all. You never know when you’ll fall down a rabbit hole. Reading all the things people have found out through research really makes you appreciate both asking “Why?/How?” and people’s determination to figure it out.

What have you enjoyed the most about your biological sciences program at the University of Lethbridge?

The thing I’ve enjoyed the most about the biology part of my degree is how much I’ve learned. I have answers to questions I never thought to ask, and I understand some things at a very small level of detail which makes the larger picture clearer. I know more about how an action potential works than I ever thought I would need to know, but it all makes so much sense. Learning about interactions, behaviours, and differences at all levels changes how you see the world in a fundamental way.

What experience at the University of Lethbridge has had the most impact on you?

I would have to say my PS1 semester. I met the most amazing people (students and faculty), and I had so much fun. I got to meet people in biology and other sciences who I never would have met through classes or labs. I also met people in other degrees, and we found ways to combine our majors to provide students with more meaningful learning experiences. I grew so much in that semester, and I’m endlessly grateful to everyone who made it what it was. My practicum also taught me a lot, especially about how much students value hands-on experiences. My little grade 1/2 class loved everything I had to share with them in science, even my lab goggles.

What experience sparked your inter about Evolutionary Ecology?

The parts of biology which focus more on organisms we can see without a microscope have always been a favourite of mine. Ecology itself is endlessly fascinating, and Evolutionary Ecology deals with some of the best things. When you think about it, nothing can survive without interactions. They’re essential to survival. We often try to narrow our focus with science, but I found it very interesting how you can keep following strings through different species with Evolutionary Ecology. You get a better sense of how complex, dynamic, and challenging the world is. Survival is not as easy as you think it is.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ll be graduating in December with a combined degree in Biological Sciences and Science Education, so I’ll be going to teach somewhere in rural Alberta. I don’t know where yet, we’ll see where the wind takes me. I think I want to teach junior high science, but I also love biology so some high school science might also be in the works for me. I want to give students a hands-on science experience that involves them in the nature of science.

What advice would you give a new biological sciences student?

Take the risks. I never planned on taking Animal Physiology, and it became one of the best biology courses I took. Risks are where you struggle, and struggle is where you grow. And no matter what, know that you are more than your classwork or your lab work. Don’t let any of that define you, just let it be part of the fuel that keeps you moving even if it isn’t always up.


Bill Cade and Elsa Salazar Cade Scholarship In Evolutionary Ecology

Third- or fourth-year students with a major in Biological Sciences. Must have demonstrated academic achievement (minimum fall/spring GPA of 3.00) and with  a focus on evolutionary ecology. Nominated by the Department of Biology. Payable upon confirmation of full-time enrolment in classes at the UofL in the Fall and Spring semesters immediately following the granting of the award.