Last Tuesday, the Erindale Biology Society (EBS) and the Erindale Chemical and Physical Sciences Society (ECPS) held their “Meet the Prof Night” event. Professors took the opportunity to introduce their respective Research Opportunity Programs (ROPs) to students, the applications for which opened on February 12.

ROPs are research opportunities with campus professors which provide second- to fourth-year students with invaluable research experience while earning a course credit. They are offered during the summer, fall, and winter semesters, as well as the full fall/winter academic year.

The program is highly competitive since students vie for a limited number of positions in these ROP labs, learning from and building meaningful relationships with professors.

Guest professors from various departments were present at the event. They introduced a range of ROPs in disciplines including biology, chemistry, biophysics, and earth science. Some biology professors also encouraged upper year students to apply for the BIO481Y5: Honors Thesis Project. 

Among the professors present, Lindsey Schoenbohm and Xiayong Xu represented the earth science department. Schoenbohm kick-started the event by providing an overview of some of the available earth science ROPs, like studying earthquakes using a sensor called a Raspberry Shake, or the reconstruction of Earth’s sea ice cover with coralline algae.

Professor Christoph Richter then opened for the biology department. The ROPs offered in biology showcased great diversity in scope, from ecology to molecular and plant biology, with a bit of genetics in many of the offerings. Professor Nagham Abdalahad also introduced two projects of her own, one on pedagogy and one on birth control awareness. She went on to encourage students to connect with her through her collaborations with the Wellness Centre, where she is hosting a number of workshops on health and wellness this term. Among these is a workshop on how to cope with the flu in the winter.

Professor Joel Levine, chair of the Biology department, was also in attendance. He took the opportunity to bring attention to the topic of his ROP, the genetic basis of social interactions in the fly Drosophila Melanogaster, a species well known to any student of biology who has taken an introductory genetics course.

“If you’re interested and you like flies—some people don’t—you’re welcome,” he said at the end of his presentation drawing chuckles across the room. 

Chemistry professor Judith Poë is something of a legend among life science students at UTM. Poë needs no introduction, and humorously took the chance to point this out.

“They gave me a name tag, I said ‘why did they do that?’” said Poë with a laugh.

Her ROP offering in the past involved science and chemistry-based pedagogy geared towards grade eleven and twelve students which gave students in the program the chance to develop their own pedagogy as well as work directly with high school teachers to implement it. However, owing to how popular the ROP was, it is now offered instead as a fourth-year course, CPS401Y5.

Poë is also offering a course called CHM201, the Science of Human Health, intended for humanities and social science students.

Other chemistry ROPs include pharmacology-based research as well as a closer look at diamondoid (diamond-like) materials.

After a brief overview of select biophysics ROPs, Xu concluded the event with his earth science ROP, complementing his colleague Schoenbohm’s start to the evening.

With the presentations concluded, the floor was opened for a networking event, allowing students and professors to connect over a shared meal provided graciously by the host clubs.

Melanie Banerjee, president of EBS, remarked that this was possibly the most successful “Meet the Prof Night” of her time at UTM.

“I remember entering the room at one point […] and not being able to really move around due to the sheer number of students interacting with professors,” said Banerjee about the night.

She admitted she was quite pleased with the event’s success and hoped it benefitted all parties in the long run as well.

“At the end of the day, [“Meet the Prof Night”] was designed for students to know more about research and their professors at a personal level,” Banerjee explained. “Especially since it can be intimidating in classes up to hundreds of students.”

The ROP applications are open until March 4. Shortlisted candidates will be called in for an interview before final decisions are made.

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