Angela Bakaj wins Alan F. Coventry Memorial Scholarship II
The Department of Biology is proud to announce that Angela Bakaj won 2021 Alan F. Coventry Memorial II.
I am honoured and delighted to receive the Alan F. Coventry Memorial Scholarship award for my achievement in three Biology courses. Upon reading, I have learned that Alan F. Coventry was a former professor at UofT that made several profound contributions to our school. However, his passion for the study of Biology was not limited to academia. Prof. Coventry carried this study of life throughout his own lifetime–allowing it to guide his aspirations and foster meaningful change. I, too, hope to extend the content of my courses and material of my textbooks into the world before me–leaving my own imprints on this study of life itself.
Notably, I have received this award on the basis of my performance in three biology courses, all of which were delivered completely online during a pandemic. While I was challenged by struggling to stay engaged during Zoom lectures, missing the environment of the University, and adjusting to online delivery, I did discover some benefits and tips to studying during a pandemic. I realized that having lecture slides posted prior to delivery allowed me to hand-write my notes at my own pace and then allowed me time to annotate them with my Profs’ comments during lecture. I also capitalized on the recording of lectures by re-watching parts that did not resonate well in live-lecture in preparation for tests. I will certainly miss this component of online learning as I feel it has helped me achieve such great results. Lastly, I found myself participating more, not withholding my questions, and attending office hours with more ease and confidence considering the virtual environment–all of which I feel contributed greatly to my performance. I plan to try and channel this online comfort and confidence into the physical lecture hall when we do return in-person.
Evidently, I strived to make the best of the online delivery of my courses and took advantage of what I could. However, it is no coincidence that the courses I have performed best in and was awarded for were the ones that I found the most joy in. I discovered that this could and should be done in all my courses to obtain similar results. Loving what one is learning encourages one to learn more and study harder. Although not all courses are easy to love, I feel it is still possible to develop an interest or genuine joy in at least a few topics. I found that curiously searching for links between the material I was studying and real-world applications helped to pique my interest and so, I learned to love what I was learning. Secondly, I feel much of my success is linked to my efforts to improve my time-management skills and eliminate distractions. This proved to be even more challenging in the midst of a pandemic while studying from home where distractions are abundant. However, this opportunity has helped to strengthen my skills and has made me cognizant of the privilege to study in a quiet space without distraction. I may also add that I found not having to change out of pajamas for morning lectures and drive to school had allotted me more time than I was used to.
Ultimately, I wish to graduate and complete my two majors: Biology for Health Sciences and English here at UTM. Naturally, I plan to complete my graduate studies after this. Given the contrast of my two majors, I find joy in intermingling the two. I feel scientific discourse tends to be dense and inaccessible for some and so, my English skills may help to democratize the conversations amongst the scientific community. I also feel that although the sciences tend to be viewed as objective and strictly logical, there still exists beauty and art within the sciences that inspire writers like myself. Lastly, as a daughter of Albanian immigrants and an immigrant herself, I am inspired by the notion of diaspora and the culture of my people. I, therefore, hope to have a poetry book of my experiences and the shared experience of immigrants published as tribute to my people, culture, and all us children of immigrants who feel an immense pressure to succeed and make our parents’ journey worthwhile. Angela Bakaj