Baillie Cej began her biological sciences studies at the University of Lethbridge in 2018 with the intention of attending medical school after graduation. Those plans have shifted dramatically as she approaches the end of her degree. Instead, Baillie has been inspired to pursue research and become a professor because of her professors' enthusiasm for research and teaching.
The first time I presented original research at the Luke Stebbins Undergraduate Research Symposium was exhilarating. I came to life while presenting.
Meet Baillie | Determined. Gritty. Confident.
Program: Bachelor of Science | Major: Biological Sciences
Why did you choose ULethbridge?
I chose ULethbridge after attending an Open House event where I met some biological sciences instructors. Their enthusiasm and confidence in the University's ability to develop great researchers due to smaller class sizes (better student-to-instructor ratio), hands-on lab experience beginning in your first year, and opportunities to pursue independent studies are what sealed the deal. The new science building was also very appealing.
Please tell us a bit about your experiential or work-integrated learning at ULethbridge. What were your three biggest takeaways from participating?
I have conducted three independent studies; I am in my 4th and will do a 5th next semester. In my first independent study (IS), I was very nervous about entering a research group. Dr. Theresa Burg was my supervisor and did an excellent job in easing me into the experience (helping around the lab) and making sure that I felt like I was part of the team (weekly lab meetings and updates). Toward the end of the semester, I was preparing my presentation for the Luke Stebbins Undergraduate Research Symposium and was feeling extremely overwhelmed with my workload (5 classes and end-of-semester projects). Dr. Burg went out of her way to make me feel encouraged and confident in my abilities. She got her graduate students to help me prepare and practice my presentation (they also attended my presentation at the symposium) and gifted me a tin full of holiday baking to ease the stress. This was my first academic experience where I really felt confident in myself and that I belonged in an educational setting.
This past summer, I conducted an IS with Dr. Nehal Thakor. Again, Dr. Thakor went out of his way to make me feel welcome in the lab and part of the team. He invited me to attend a research conference with himself and the graduate students in his lab. This was a very memorable experience as it was my first research conference and first exposure to what it would mean to be a researcher/academic. Dr. Thakor let me dictate the laboratory techniques and skills I learned; this independence allowed me to blossom in the lab and explore many different procedures.
These research experiences will set me apart from other graduate school applicants.
My three biggest takeaways: I should not try to avoid failure, but expect it and learn from it; research is more than the science; it is also about your lab mates, colleagues, and the relationships you build; I am capable of doing virtually anything that I set my mind to and of believing in myself.
How have your professors impacted your education?
My professors/instructors have been instrumental in my education. They welcome and encourage class participation/questions, which fosters a learning environment. I would not be where I am today without my professors' encouragement and unwavering belief in me. I was oblivious to my potential, and they continue to help me realize it and reach it. They challenge me to learn and understand concepts rather than memorize them for an exam. They have inspired me to pursue research and become a professor because of their passion for science and teaching and because they believe in their students and want them to succeed. Some have taken on the role of my mentor (both academic and emotional). They are my role models, and I hope to one day inspire and guide young minds the way they have for me. I now crave a challenge rather than fear it.
Baillie's ability to not only learn but to thoroughly master new material quickly and effortlessly seems unparalleled. – Dr. Randall Barley, Department of Biological Sciences, nominated Baillie as a Shining Student
Is there someone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?
My friend group! We are biology and biochemistry majors with lots of love for science and learning. We rally together when the semester or life is stressful and really encourage each other to push through. We will detach from school by going for wings or having group hangouts with a couple of cocktails.
Have you received any scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.
I have not received anything from ULethbridge. My GPA suffered immensely during my first two years; consequently, I have not been selected for scholarships. However, I have been on the Dean's list for the last three semesters. Although I have not received scholarships, I would like to thank the donors of the Library and Science Commons buildings! I spend more time in these locations during the semester than at home. The facilities are immaculate and genuinely inspire me. Science Commons has become a place where I feel like I truly belong and serves as motivation to one day be working at an institution like ours.
What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time at ULethbridge?
Even if you fail and the outcome seems bleak, keep trying and don't give up. The most important lessons are rooted in failure, so approach it as a learning experience rather than incompetency.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
I plan on getting my master's and doctoral degrees and hope to become a professor.
What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?
Do not give up! It will be challenging mentally and emotionally at times, but embrace the uncomfortable and watch yourself grow as a student and person.
Top things to do in or around Lethbridge:
- Take in nature and our wildlife by walking around the coulees, around lakes, and in the river bottom
- Visit the horses at Fort Whoop-Up during the summer
- Getting Swirls ice cream or Sonder waffles
Favourite class: Animal physiology
Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: Biology Club events
Favourite place to study: Science Commons study rooms (great views)
About Shining Students
Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.
Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Baillie!