Kaitlyn Stevens’s love of “all things biology” was fostered in high school, and she eagerly awaited the day she could pursue that passion at the University of Lethbridge while staying close to friends and family in Taber. While that journey was delayed after she was diagnosed with a serious medical condition and underwent open-heart surgery, Kaitlyn chooses to look at the positives which resulted, rather than any challenges she had to overcome.

Although it took me longer to graduate high school and start university as a result, I am grateful that my past health struggles slowed me down and taught me valuable lessons about strength, gratitude and resilience. Without these lessons, I wouldn’t be the individual or student that I am today. 

Meet Katilyn | Driven. Kind. Resilient.
Program: Bachelor of Science | Major: Biological Sciences
Hometown: Taber

Kaitlyn’s enthusiasm for biology has only grown as she pursues her degree, and she credits her professors, both in biology and those teaching courses outside her major, for the impact they’ve had on her education. Without their contribution and the feedback she’s received, Kaitlyn says she wouldn’t have developed key skills like writing, critical thinking and presenting.

A professor Kaitlyn can’t thank enough for the positive influence she had on her first year at ULethbridge was Jennifer Burke, who taught her the Diversity of Life course.

“I was inspired to become as excited about science as she was, and was able to witness more of Jenny’s knowledge, curiosity, and enthusiasm for botany and nature while working with her this past summer,” she says, of the project.

Thanks to a Chinook Summer Research Award, Kaitlyn and fellow student Courtlynd Cherpin worked with Burke and Dr. John Bain, Director of the University of Lethbridge Herbarium and University of Lethbridge Teaching Herbarium, to locate, identify and collect plants throughout southern Alberta. The work sparked in her a greater interest and appreciation for botany and plant research, while she was inspired by Cherpin’s drive, eagerness to learn and immense kindness.  

“Kaitlyn's enthusiasm, preparation and work ethic are unparalleled!” says professor Jennifer Burke, adding her kindness and willingness to help others is always apparent.

Kaitlyn says her stay at the University’s Westcastle Field Station during that project was her most memorable ULethbridge experience to date.

“Being able to spend two days hiking, collecting vibrant flowers amongst the mountains, and working inside the field station was an incredible experience,” she says.

In her second year, Kaitlyn joined the Research Internship Concentration (RIC) program. Coordinated by Dr. Elizabeth Schultz and Dr. Cam Goater, the program allowed her to explore different areas of research and focus on developing relevant research skills. In her most recent RIC project, Kaitlyn worked alongside Dr. Dmytro Yevtushenko and Dr. Maria Munawar studying plant-parasitic nematode populations in southern Alberta agricultural fields. Her presentation on the project at the Undergraduate Research in Science Conference of Alberta tied for second place in that session.

“Completing research studies takes a lot of hard work, but at the same time, they are rewarding and exciting,” says Kaitlyn, who learned the benefits of researching areas one is already interested, and others less familiar.

Dr. Munawar taught Kaitlyn a great deal of lab skills and exemplified what it is to be an excellent researcher, she says, while Dr. Bain shared some of his immense plant knowledge with her and helped her grow an appreciation for all kinds of plant life.

In the future, Kaitlyn plans to pursue graduate studies and has an eye on a career in biological research. Among her words of advice to new ULethbridge students is don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, as there are so many amazing opportunities at the University to try something new.

“And always be kind to yourself. Do not let anything, from a grade on a quiz or a difficult class, make you think poorly of yourself,” Kaitlyn offers.