Bill Cade and Elsa Salazar Cade Scholarship in Evolutionary Ecology recipient Polina Semikina

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

Most of my university experience was during the COVID-19 pandemic. I did one semester of university in Ukraine before COVID hit, and my studies were online for two and a half years after that. After transferring to the University of Lethbridge in 2022, just in one and a half years, I had more hands-on experience than before in my studies, which is incredible!

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

I tried myself in the lab setting and in the field work during university courses, including university courses like Experimental Methods in Molecular Biology, Field Biology, and an additional summer internship with Elizabeth Schultz. Now, I am working on Honour's thesis with Cameron Goater. This experience provided me with a lot of not just theoretical but practical knowledge in different biology fields. It allowed me to understand what I enjoy the most and find my own path.

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

Variety! I enjoy the opportunity to choose courses that align the most with my interests and dive deep into specific disciplines. Also, the fact that classes are small gives a higher chance to find a connection with professors and other students.

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

There were a lot of good experiences here, like being a member of the Bio Club or Intervarsity Club or taking part in the Intramurals International Volleyball team - I found lots of like-minded friends there. The most outstanding recent experience is the Field Biology course with Cameron Goater. I recently came back home after a whole week of fieldwork. It was hard, but I also met many people there and gained lots of valuable skills!

What experience sparked your inter about Evolutionary Ecology?

I love seeing the bigger picture of the world, and especially the different connections between living organisms. There were two courses that impacted me the most: Invertebrate Zoology with Shelley Hoover and Population Biology with Robert Laird. After taking those, I realized two things: I like bugs (they can be so different and bizarre!), and I want to understand more about complex interactions in the natural world. To me, the key to understanding both the appearance and behaviour of animals lies in unravelling their evolutionary history. This is what evolutionary ecology is all about – studying an organism's place in the world throughout time.

What are your plans for the future?

I am from Ukraine, and after graduation, I plan to return home. My country is going through a lot right now, and many hardships are just starting to show up. I really want to use the knowledge I gained here and be helpful to people and nature back there. I believe with the education and expertise I've earned at the University of Lethbridge I can be a professional in my field who can serve her country well and deal with many ecological catastrophes that it faces now as a consequence of the war.

What advice would you give a new biological sciences student?

Go and talk! Talk to people in your class - preparing for tests together is much more fun. But even more important - talk to professors! They are really there for you and ready to give you the chance to learn something new! Pick someone whose research you find interesting, and ask them if you could do a project with them (summer or independent study). Worst case scenario - they say 'no' (rarely this happens!), but if they say 'yes' - that might be your future career!

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.