Outstanding Volunteer: Hamzah Khan
Hamzah Khan has volunteered for Pueblo Science since 2017, as a program instructor, volunteer trainor and curriculum design lead. He obtained his BSc in Human Biology and Physiology from the University of Toronto in 2017. His interest in medical research led him to his investigations on peripheral arterial diseases at St. Michael’s hospital and then to coordinating clinical trials on brain injury at Sunny Brook Hospital. He is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Toronto and is passionate about helping rural communities around the world through science education and affordable diagnostics.
What inspired you to pursue STEM?
When I was in high school, I had a young cousin who passed away a few weeks after being diagnosed with kidney problems. She lived in a small village in northern Pakistan where access to healthcare and diagnostics was non-existent, it was too late by the time we found out. I thought it was unfair and very sad that unlike in Canada, where we have access to incredible health care, other places don’t and lives are prematurely lost. I wanted to change that and help create diagnostics that people from small rural areas can access.
How did you first hear about Pueblo Science and what attracted you to this cause?
I first heard about Pueblo Science during my undergrad while teaching for a tutor company. My manager learned about my desire to help people in small rural areas and he told me to look into Pueblo Science. He also introduced me to Dr. Mayrose Salvador. I was impressed with Pueblo’s mission, it hit home with what I wanted in my life and my career. I wanted to be part of a team that inspires children to become science professionals in the developing world. I believe that through Pueblo Science’s programs, we can help them sustainably build their own economy. I became a volunteer in 2017.
What volunteering activities have you done with Pueblo Science and how have these experiences impacted/changed you?
I started as an instructor for the RISE program in Thailand, teaching high school students. It was such a great experience that I convinced my sister, a teacher, to also join Pueblo Science as an instructor. We both went to Thailand in 2018. I have also led the development of over 20 activities for Good Morning Science. Finally, I have trained other volunteers on how to use the activities to effectively teach children attending Good Morning Science online or in-person.
It was very rewarding to see children enjoying science with their siblings and parents during Good Morning Science. On the other hand, volunteering for the RISE program made me realize how lucky I am as a Canadian scientist. I have access to so many things that enable me to pursue my curiosity, help develop solutions to healthcare problems and enjoy science. Students and teachers in developing countries do not have the same access. I am grateful that through Pueblo Science, I have the opportunity to change that. I can develop activities using materials that they can find in their communities and help teachers learn how to effectively use these activities in their classrooms.
Will you continue to support Pueblo Science?
Of course! I have worked with Pueblo Science for the past five years and I will continue to do so, for as long as I can. It’s been so much fun working with other students, teachers and scientists. Knowing the long term impact I am having not only in Toronto but also in communities globally is very rewarding.
What is the most valuable skill you learned?
I learned how to communicate science to many different people: kids, parents, teachers, students and the general public. I also learned how to change my teaching style to tailor the experience for different kids and teachers, whether they are looking for more challenge, fun, excitement or all of the above. Finally, I learned how to inspire people to pursue STEM careers and teach the general public about the science that I do as a PhD student, and I think that is very important.
What advice would you give to young children or anyone, in general, hoping to pursue STEM?
Do something that you love, find what you’re passionate about and what will make you excited to go to work every day. Don’t be afraid to fail, whatever you are pursuing, keep going. Don’t be afraid to change direction, especially if you keep pushing but you are not getting what you want, go back to the drawing board and start over.
What are some things you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love longboarding, it’s fun and it’s great exercise. I’ve used it to commute 10 kms from work to my home. I love painting and I’m interested in Egyptian history and different religions. I like to mash all my interests together so after a stressful day at work, I would paint my long boards with Egyptian gods, hieroglyphics and symbolisms of different religions.