Stephanie U’s volunteer experiences have led to lasting friendships, work opportunities and an NSERC undergraduate student research award.


Volunteering leads to friendship and work opportunities for behavioural neuroscience student stephanie u

February 13, 2020

Stephanie U didn’t know how she could ever choose between the two subjects she’s been fascinated with since high school: biology and psychology. Fortunately, she discovered Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Behavioural Neuroscience program, a unique joint major that combines both of her loves.

When U first transferred from Douglas College to SFU, she was concerned that attending classes in big lecture halls would make it difficult to connect with people. However, she credits her early involvement in the FASS Connections mentorship program for helping her make fast friends and find success volunteering while working on her degree.

“I’ve met some of my best friends and countless new students that I’ve helped through volunteering,” she says. “It’s also helped my personal growth in soft skills, like presentation, communication, email writing and the ability to lead a team.”

Volunteering with FASS has helped U build her professional network and find work opportunities she says she may not have found otherwise. For example, her experiences as a research assistant in the Attention and Driving Laboratory as well as the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Laboratory confirmed her desire to pursue a career in a psychology laboratory. Working in a lab has also expanded her knowledge of research methods.

“It’s amazing what opportunities come your way when you volunteer,” says U. “I got my position in the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Laboratory because I was interested in the field of research and reached out to professor Ralph Mistlberger and now, a year later, I’m conducting my own research in his lab.”

U’s original research looks at aspects of circadian rhythms, the biological process that regulates the daily sleep-wake cycle of people, plants, animals, fungi and bacteria, and is made possible by an undergraduate student research award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). U says earning funding from NSERC has been her greatest success to date while studying at SFU.

U also has some good advice for students seeking out unique opportunities: “It never hurts to send an email,” she says. “Even if a professor whose research you’re interested in doesn’t have any openings in their labs posted, send them an email and ask for an informational interview,” she says. “What’s the worst that could happen?”