Seventeen-year-old Meera Chopra was drawn to neurology after volunteering in a nursing home. Seeing people suffering with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s opened her eyes to the painful truth of neurological diseases. “I became interested in neuroscience research to see how I could assist in preventing and hopefully curing these illnesses in the future,” she says. “As I started learning more about this field, I became fascinated by the ability of the brain to regenerate itself and create pathways for memory storage and thought origination.”
Chopra is a recipient of a scholarship from Tundra’s Launchpad Project, which connects young women in STEM with experienced industry mentors. Heading to McMaster University in the fall, Chopra is excited by the prospect of researching and finding treatments for diseases. “Over time, I realized that working in scientific fields, especially biology, would allow me to make a difference in the individual lives of people by having an impact on their health. I’m eager to harness the power of science to improve the daily lives of those suffering from neurological diseases around the world.”
We asked Chopra about the challenges she’s faced, and what she’s looking forward to on the road ahead.
SDTC: Walk us through a typical day in your life.
MC: My day generally starts at 7:30 a.m. when I leave for school. Once a week, I broadcast the morning announcements at my school. Throughout the day, I attend classes that generally focus on STEM topics, but I also enjoy taking classes that help me grow in other ways, such as French and business. A few times a week during my lunch hour, I lead debate or other club meetings or attend cross-country team practices. After school, I volunteer for about an hour, which includes planning youth events or fundraisers. Then, I head home and work on school assignments. I also try to find ways to enjoy myself by listening to music or interesting podcasts. By then, the day is pretty much over and I go to sleep.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your life, and how did you get through it?
As my courses and extracurricular load became more and more difficult later in high school, it became tough to balance my schoolwork, extracurriculars, and social activities. On top of managing my course load, I also wanted to explore scientific fields and develop my passion for neuroscience. At this point, I tried to figure out which study methods worked best for me to learn information effectively and I made sure to use my downtime to focus on activities that I was passionate about. Overcoming this challenge by learning to use my time efficiently didn’t happen overnight, but managing my time is a crucial skill to have, especially as a student.
Any plans for the rest of the summer?
I’m working as a summer camp counsellor and math teaching assistant and then heading to university!
What’s your motto at the moment?
Making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. We must use what we learn from our mistakes to make us into better, smarter, and kinder people.
Best advice you’ve gotten? Worst advice you’ve gotten?
My mother always stressed the importance of balance. Although it may be difficult to maintain, managing your time to be able to do schoolwork and extracurricular activities and still meet up with friends (and make new ones) will lead to happiness.
The worst advice that I’ve received is that “good things happen to those who wait.” Although it’s important to take your time, I’ve learned to actively pursue any goals I want to achieve.
What does receiving this award mean to you personally?
To me, this scholarship is a recognition of the significant contribution of women to STEM fields. This award promotes inclusivity and diversity of thought within the sciences. In turn, I will strive to promote diversity in post-secondary studies and beyond by promoting discussion surrounding inclusion in science. Also, because of recent technological developments, we have the ability of integrating computer science to model and treat diseases, an area that I hope to explore in the future.