First Biological Sciences Poetry Contest Winners!

May 06, 2021

Department of Biological Sciences

We are excited to announce the winners of the first annual Biological Sciences Poetry Contest.  We would like to thank all the contributors.  This was a very enjoyable task for the outreach and engagement committee.  We have some great poets amongst us!  We would also like to thank our guest judge Mark Winston, who spends most of his time at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue and has published several books that are widely popular.  

1st prize – David Hik for the poem:  +100 ppm
2nd prize - Isabelle Côté for the poem: Ode to Blennies
3rd prize – Cole Rankin for the poem: From the field: A Year with Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)

On behalf of the Outreach and Engagement Committee Congratulations to the winners!

The judges also really enjoyed the poem Why I Love What I Do ------- At SFU by Zamir Punja as it is highly relevant to the pandemic and changing work circumstances such as remote teaching that the students and instructors are experiencing. 

Please read all four poems below.

Ode to Blennies
by Isabelle Côté

Among the fishes large and small,
Salmon is not the king of all.
The crown belongs to one that’s tiny,
The small but mighty redlip blenny.

Pacific salmon all spawn in fall,
One showy bang and that is all.
They rot and die and float away.
Whimpy, not strong, if I dare say.

Blennies instead just go and go.
Around full moon, they never slow.
So now you know, when it comes to sex,
Big is OK but small is best!

From the Field: A Year with Black Oystercatcher
(Haematopus bachmani)

by Cole Rankin

Winter is rolling in
Gathering all the grey
Some fly south
Some stay

Jump down the jagged coast
Intertidal obligate
Skimming turbulent tides
Bustling, but elegant

Against the waves
Against the wind
Flock together
Fend off a Peregrine

Something breaks through
As fog tightens its grip
Like a dense sunset
A flame scarlet bill tip

Dressed in black
On two blood feet
Wet in repose
Somewhere, Johnny Cash strums the beat

Stealthily stocking shoreline
Quick, jab a mussel
Spring is upon us
Time to hustle

The North calls back
With light in the sky
Joining in the chorus
And sun mirrored in your eye

Impress a partner
With a Piping dance
Defend a territory
With a fierce stance

Chicks are now raised
A successful summer it’s been
That’s one year
Time to do it all again

Why I Love What I Do ------- At SFU
by Zamir Punja

Let me start by saying that SFU is such a great place to be
And it’s not just because of you and me
We have faculty, staff and students galore
Many of whom I so, so adore
I knew I never wanted to be Department Chair
Because it is so hard to always be fair
So I chose instead to work on mushrooms and mold
Which to me are worth their weight in gold
And I hope I can continue working until I am very old

I have a great bunch of graduate students in the lab
And I hope they also think I am fab
As they research all kinds of cool stuff on mold
Because without each other where would we go?

My research involves studying plant pathology
Which is a component of plant biology
I also teach about fungi, which is mycology
And we include much about algae, which is phycology

In my Introductory Biology class of 350 students
We learn about plant transpiration and cellular respiration
One involves water transport and the other causes perspiration
Among students who have to do so much memorization

I teach my students about the immense importance of plants
And how they like to grow where it’s hot
Which is what makes really really good pot.
As the xylem vessels transport water to the shoots
And the phloem elements relocate sugars to the roots
These plants revitalize our dying planet with oxygen and food
I always emphasize over again – that plants do us a lot of good.

This year we are had to offer Introductory Biology on-line
I hope that everything went just fine
Studying alone at home can be so lonely
And I tried to reach out to my students warmly
Reminding them to stay strong and not lose focus
And hoping that everything would soon regain its locus
For COVID-19 created a world-wide pandemic
And made many of us lose a portion of our academics

I just had to include a discussion on COVID
Even though many students were feeling morbid
It is such a horrible virus that is causing pain
While it uses our human cells for its own gain
But one day, we will learn how to destroy its replication
Which would cause all of us so much elation.

Learning about mitosis, cell cycle and cancer cells
Also makes students feel really, really swell
For the knowledge that they will have gained
May one day reduce someone’s pain
For if they could find some type of cancer cure
That would make all of us feel good, for sure

But teaching membrane transport was a challenge
For many students found it boring
And I could not help ignoring
The fact that many of them were probably snoring
I struggled with explaining facilitated diffusion
Knowing that it may be causing even more confusion

And those RNA primers make sure our DNA is primed
So that the enzyme polymerase III can act on time
Separating and copying that DNA so fast
I just look with wonder and gasp
Please - don't make any nucleotide mismatches
Otherwise we will all suffer with mutations without those catches

So I wrote this poem because Tammy had asked
Although I knew there would be a few gasps
For who in the world has time to find
Words that rhyme so well in anyone’s mind

And while many of you may think I am a poetic prof
There may be others who feel I am totally off
But I love the research and teaching that I do –with thanks to you, SFU!