Selin Jessa joined SOI on the 2011 Antarctic expedition. Since then she’s planned the first TEDx Talk in Antarctica, placed fourth in the International BioGENEius Challenge science competition, and most recently, she’s been named one of the Top 20 Under 20. Leah Davidson, another Antarctic 2011 alumna, was also offered the award, but had to decline because she was working on a development project in Peru and unable to attend the awards ceremony.
We caught up with Selin to hear more about her Top 20 Under 20 experience.
How does it feel to be named one of the Top 20 Under 20?
It’s an incredible feeling to be celebrated for having worked on projects I care about, but it has been even better to be able to share the news with the people that have supported me! I think the real privilege is in being part of the group – it’s an inspiring bunch and I am looking forward to learning from them and their experiences.
What was the awards ceremony like? Did you make any interesting connections?
The award ceremony was a really excellent climax to a great week. We had two days of workshops, time to get to know each other, and exploring Toronto, and on our last day together was the breakfast ceremony. I felt very proud seeing the other recipients whom I’d just gotten to know be up on stage talking about their work. The other 19 are definitely inspiring, but more than that they are down-to-earth, thoughtful, and kind. I did make a couple interesting connections, one with a prof at U of T working with software to simulate complexity. I’m hoping to explore how it might be used to model the impact of climate change on health – specifically vector-borne disease.
As someone who accomplished a lot during your high school years, how was your first year of your undergrad? Did you get involved in any new projects or initiatives, or did you take it easy?
It was a combination! Over the first few months, I definitely took it easy as I was navigating a new school, a new city, and an entirely new group of people. In my second semester, though, I crossed paths with some folks running an incredible sustainability project at McGill called ECOLE. ECOLE has leased a house just off campus and, piloting in September, we are filling that house with a small group of returning students who will be living in the house and exploring socially and environmentally sustainable living practices, carrying out applied research projects, and seeking to make the house a communal space and hub for allied groups across campus and the surrounding community. I am very excited to be living in the ECOLE house for the 2014-15 school year!
Do you have any suggestions about how people can get involved at a young age?
I think the best piece of advice I can give is to take advantage of the time and freedom you have as a young person to explore as many directions and projects and issues as interest you. Curiosity and care are the best drivers.