Global connections, national leadership

- March 18, 2016

Jasveen Brar in Antarctica. (Provided photos)
Jasveen Brar in Antarctica. (Provided photos)

At 21, Sustainability and Biology student Jasveen Brar already boasts an impressive resume.

In high school in Medicine Hat, Alberta, this first generation Indian-Canadian (and the only female child in three generations of her family) began working part-time in a microbiology lab testing water for parasites. She then used this experience to develop a method for early detection of parasitic outbreaks in water supplies.

Jasveen took her infectious idea to the top at the 2012 Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWFS) in Prince Edward Island with her project  "Environmental Distribution of Giardia and Cryptosporidium." Jasveen took home first prize, including the Environmental Challenge Award, the Senior Excellence Award, the Senior Gold medal and a Faculty of Science Entrance Scholarship.

At the time, Jasveen realized that many high school students, particularly young women, are either intimidated or disinterested in science fairs. “There is a stereotype around [science fairs] that they are just about building an erupting volcano — students don't realize that they offer great opportunities to do more,” she says.

In collaboration with Youth Science Canada, Jasveen co-founded Operation Lab Coats and Beakers, a program designed to help students overcome obstacles, barriers and learning gaps surrounding participation in science fairs.  She hopes to one day take the program around the world to inspire young women to participate in science fairs.

Expanding on this idea, Jasveen is currently co-hosting a webinar series through Youth Science Canada discussing how students can take their science fair projects to the next level.“It’s basically an extension of Operation Lab Coats and Beakers but on a national scale.”

She’s continuing this work in support of InnovatHer, a program through Youth Science Canada which aims to inspire girls to get engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through webinars and podcasts providing peer-driven examples of just how far science can take everyone in their careers and personal lives.

Southbound, northbound

Jasveen’s passion has taken her around the world: she travelled to Antarctica with Students On Ice, an organization supporting personal and professional growth and youth development through the hands-on study of issues relating to the Arctic and climate change.

“There were about 60 of us. Sometimes we were tasked with watching penguins and whales all day and I’d think to myself, is this even real?” she says.

While there, Jasveen received training from world-renowned glaciologists, learning about data-collection methods and how to take ice-core samples.

“It’s the poles that are the beacons for climate change.”

Jasveen and her crew were attempting to gain a moratorium on krill fishing off the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica where a high diversity of marine species rely on the krill. “The main point is to cease overexploitation of this vital, yet understudied resource.”

This summer Jasveen will again work with Students On Ice, this time in the Arctic, as part of a SUST internship.

Jasveen will also take her arctic research to the international stage, representing Canada at the UN World Merit 360 conference in New York in August 2016.

“I do think climate action is related to all of the [other U.N Sustainable Development] goals. It’s almost like it’s the basis of everything," she says.

The U.N World Merit conference will bring together 360 bright minds from across the globe to defend the 17 U.N Sustainable Development Goals. Jasveen is one of three students defending Goal 13: Climate Action.

“I am very honoured to be selected…. Acting as the voice of my generation and having the chance to represent my country is very exciting.”

 “I am a little nervous,” she admits. “I have never done something on such a large scale before, it’s global… I hope that everything I’ve done so far amounts to creating a small change in my community or inspires others”.

Advice for change-makers

At the top of Jasveen’s advice for change makers: “don’t let age become something that stops you from doing something. Don’t let someone saying ‘no’ stop you either.”

When asked what qualities have enabled her to reach her often ambitious goals, Jasveen says “be independent; headstrong; patient yet persistent; focused on your passions; believe in yourself.”

Add one more accomplishment to the list: Jasveen was recently selected for the 2016 Alberta Council for Global Cooperation (ACGC) Top 30 Under 30 Magazine for her contributions to the U.N Sustainable Development Goal on Climate Action.

“I just want to do something where I am happy…. and help to improve the community around me.”


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