Science helps us to continue exploring and better understand the world we live in. It also contributes to advances and innovations in virtually every area of our world.

Dr. Fern Leavens (BSc ‘13) completed her bachelor’s in mathematics with an honours thesis in biochemistry at uLethbridge in 2013. She went on to dentistry, graduating with her DDS in 2016 and still uses the basic science knowledge acquired during her undergrad fairly regularly. Her love for learning has encouraged her to continue her formal education, and she is currently completing a master of health sciences education. In 2021, the University of Lethbridge Alumni Association recognized Fern as the 2021 Young Alumna of the Year.

What excites you about science?

There are so many different areas of exploration and discovery and so many things that we still know so little about. Science helps us continue exploring and better understand the world we live in. It also contributes to advances and innovations in virtually every area of our world, including medicine, technology, transportation, etc.

What sparked your interest in science and your related field?

I always loved science growing up. I started participating in science fairs in junior high and high school. I had the opportunity to travel all across Canada and meet other youth who were equally as excited and interested in the scientific process and discovery as I was. I started out as a general science major and honestly had a hard time narrowing down my interests. I still find myself drawn to so many areas of science and research.

Tell us about the first time you felt really excited about what you were learning?

That's a hard one for sure! My mom would say I loved learning far before I started kindergarten. I used to get upset that my older sister got to go to school and learn, and I would have to stay home. They would get me workbooks and give me 'homework' so that I didn't feel left out. I have been excited about learning new things from as far back as I can remember.

What surprised you about participating in scientific research at uLethbridge?

I was surprised by how approachable and helpful the professors and researchers were. I felt so supported and received such incredible mentorship. I learned so many new things and really felt like a valued member of the research team. I was able to participate in entire projects, from initial ideas through to publication.

Where has your love of science taken you, and what are you doing now?

This is a great question. Initially, my love for science helped me develop a passion for school and work hard to master different subject material. It helped me stay focused in high school and solidified my goals for further post-secondary education. I also feel that my general love for science helped me stay broad with my course choices in undergrad. I took quite a few courses in math, chemistry, physics and biology before settling on a math major in my third year. I really loved learning it all. I appreciated that the University of Lethbridge allowed me to explore so many areas of science while also allowing me to focus on a major later in my studies. I am now a dentist and still get to use a lot of my basic sciences knowledge fairly regularly. My love for learning has also encouraged me to continue my formal education, as I am currently completing my master's.

What words of inspiration would you like to share with the next generation of women and girls in science?

You can do absolutely anything that you want—it might just take a bit of work. Your passions and hard work will change the scientific field and the world as we know it. My advice would be to take your time and find out what really gets you excited, and work towards making that your job.

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