Final countdown: Applications due soon for STEAM Horizon Awards program

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Ingenium - Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation
Since winning a STEAM Horizon Award, Jackson Weir graduated from the University of New Brunswick. Recently, he started working towards his PhD in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences program at Harvard Medical School.

It’s the final stretch to the application deadline for the 2022 Ingenium-NSERC STEAM Horizon Awards — but it’s not too late to apply.

Canadian teens who have their sights set on an exciting career in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) won’t want to miss this opportunity: Five inspiring youth will soon be awarded $25,000 to be used towards post-secondary education. Two of those prizes will be awarded to Indigenous youth. The application deadline for the award program is January 14, 2022.

Jackson Weir was a recipient of the STEAM Horizon Awards back in 2019. Recently, the Ingenium Channel caught up with Weir to find out what he’s been up to since his big win (spoiler alert: he’s doing some pretty amazing things!). He also offered up some insider tips and tricks for putting together an attention-getting application.

Award winner Jackson Weir wears a white lab coat, mask, and rubber gloves as he sits at a laboratory counter; his gloved hands are underneath a clear partition and there are several bottles and boxes visible.

Ingenium Channel (IC): Where has life taken you since winning your STEAM Horizon Award? 

Jackson Weir (JW): When I received my STEAM Horizon Award, I was a first-year student at the University of New Brunswick working towards my Bachelor of Science in Biology. As an undergrad, I spent much of my time in a cancer research lab at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick studying multiple myeloma — a rare and largely incurable blood cancer. My work focused on enhancing current therapies and discovering targets for new ones.

As my career as a cancer researcher began to take off, I realized effectively communicating science is just as important as conducting good science. I took on leadership roles in several organizations seeking to provoke thought and translate knowledge in my community. I worked with TEDxUNB, the Canada-Wide Science Fair, and local student research journals in an effort to make science accessible and exciting to as many people as possible. 

I graduated from the University of New Brunswick in the spring of 2021. Recently, I began my PhD in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences program at Harvard Medical School. As I take the next step in my scientific career, I maintain many of the same ambitions I held as a STEAM Horizon Award applicant. I aim to lead a life of curiosity and compassion by pursuing interesting science and making a positive impact on the world around me.

IC: What have been the impacts of winning this award?

JW: Winning the STEAM Horizon Award impacted my life in three important ways. Firstly, the prize money associated with the award removed any financial burdens associated with my undergraduate degree. University is a time of great financial stress for many students. I am still grateful that the award allowed me to forgo this stress and focus fully on my academic, research, and extracurricular goals. 

Secondly, the award was hugely validating to me as a young scientist and aspiring change maker. Before winning the award, I was working hard to find success in science and promote curiosity in my community, but I was not always convinced the path I had chosen was the correct one. Being recognized with a STEAM Horizon Award gave me the confidence I needed to continue chasing my dreams at an especially formative time of my life. 

Finally, the STEAM Horizon Award connected me to a wonderful network of students, teachers, and leaders in STEAM across Canada. The people I met at the awards ceremony have remained a source of inspiration to this day.

In the foreground, award winner Jackson Weir smiles directly at the camera. In the background, a grassy lawn and an impressive stone building are blurred but visible.

IC: There are likely students out there who are on the fence about whether or not to apply for the STEAM Horizon Awards; they may be thinking it’s too late to get organized before the deadline. What advice would you give them?

JW: It is never too late to start your application. I remember filming the promotional video two days before the deadline and staying up late the night before submitting to finalize my essays. The only way to guarantee you have no chance of winning is to not apply at all!

Applications like this can be daunting. We are tempted to feel inadequate when thinking about all the accomplishments we imagine other applicants must have. But I promise every other student applying is sharing these same thoughts — I certainly had no expectations of winning! I believe living a fulfilling life starts with stepping outside our comfort zone. The STEAM Horizon Award could be the opportunity you have been waiting for to take the next step towards your most ambition goals. Why not give it a shot?

IC: What tips do you have for applicants looking to create an all-star award application?

JW: Asking for advice and getting feedback is a phenomenal way to refine your application. At the end of the day, a committee of strangers will be reviewing your submitted material to decide the winners of the award. Collecting perspectives from people you trust — to provide honest critiques about your application — will help you best represent who you are in the limited space and time you have, to impress the selection committee.

When I was applying, I was most worried about creating an effective promotional video. I had no experience creating anything of this sort, so I reached out to a friend who was very talented in videography. He was incredibly kind to offer his expertise and help me craft a video strong enough to stand out in the applicant pool. You would be amazed by the willingness of others to offer their time in your support…all you have to do is ask!

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.