Scientist & sustainability advocate from British Columbia, Canada

Passionate about sharing ideas and the areas where art and science intersect, Selin Jessa organized the first ever TEDx Talk in Antarctica during her SOI Antarctic 2011 expedition. Her experiences in Antarctica propelled her to take action around social and environmental sustainability, and she has since immersed herself in research on health. Selin took first place at the BC regional Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge, second at the national level, and fourth at the international level. She has also received the TD Scholarship and been named among the Top 20 Under 20.

The Expedition Experience

The landing at Deception Island left a lasting impression. Selin wandered with friends among whale vertebrae and oil tanks, remnants of the island’s past as a whaling station. When two Inuit students began to throat sing inside one of the tanks, she was captivated.

“There was something about their voices resonating in that cavernous tank that felt incredibly significant, almost as if they were echoing across time. I think we were all thinking about the history of Whaler’s Bay, about what had occurred there some decades before, and our hopes for the future.”

Realizing Goals & Ambitions

During her expedition, Selin organized the first TEDx Talk in Antarctica. During TEDxYouth@AntarcticPeninsula, students and staff came together to talk about issues ranging from rising sea levels to the power of youth. Upon returning home, she felt a sense of urgency to advocate for sustainability, leading her to give another TEDxTalk about Antarctica in her home province of BC.

“Since [the expedition] my concept of sustainability has deepened and in one way or another, pursuing or understanding social and environmental sustainability has been the driving force of all my work.”

Making a Difference

As a high school student, Selin began conducting research at a lab at Simon Fraser University on HIV/AIDS, and she has been passionate about research ever since. At the start of her undergraduate degree at McGill University in Montreal, Selin was an integral part of launching ECOLE. This campus and community hub explores urban sustainability through workshops, events, research, and experiential learning.

“I think it has become an important bridge between groups collectively trying to make sustainability both actionable in our daily lives and an operating principle in our school and city.”

Looking Ahead

Fascinated by systems and understanding how they change, Selin hopes to continue researching. She aims to satisfy her “curiosity about biological systems and disease, and environmental systems and climate change and where these intersect.” While she’s currently focused on finishing her undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Biology at McGill University, she plans to pursue graduate studies.

“I've been involved in research projects ranging from infectious disease to cancer to healthcare access. I think science is such a powerful tool for influencing change, I hope to keep exploring this as a scientist!”