How applying for a Graduate Award can help dreams come true

Jenny Smith

By: Jenny Smith

For me, marine biology has been something I have wanted to pursue as a career before I even really appreciated what that would entail. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always answer “marine biologist”, without fully understanding what education I would need or how I would get there.

My fascination with the marine realm began following a childhood trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the largest coral reef system in the world. My family and I stayed on Lady Elliot Island, a coral island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, where we could go snorkeling right off the beach. It was this first exposure to the undersea world which kick-started my desire to study corals, and from that point on, all I knew was that I wanted to somehow do that as a job.

My journey studying marine biology in Canada

In order to pursue marine biology, I needed access to an ocean, but being from Ottawa, I was not in the ideal spot. I wanted to get a university degree in marine biology, so I set my sights on attending Dalhousie University (Dal), on Canada’s East Coast.

Although I knew marine biology was what I wanted to study, I had not considered the logistics of how I would fund a university education - especially one away from home. Luckily for me, while I was busy thinking about preserving delicate marine ecosystems, my parents were busy thinking about my future education and planning ahead. They had the foresight to set up a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) with CST when I was born. That savings plan enabled me to have the option to go to university away from home and ultimately, pursue the degree I wanted most.

With the help of CST, I graduated with an Honours BSc in Marine Biology from Dal, but I was not done learning. I wanted to further my education in the field, so I began thinking about graduate programs. While researching potential graduate programs, I found a lab at the University of Victoria (UVic) on the West Coast that conducts research on coral reefs and how they are threatened by climate change. I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of, so I started the application process.

How the CST Graduate Award helped me pursue my underwater passion

In the summer after I received my undergraduate degree, I felt a bit confused about where I would go and what I would do in the future. My goal was to pursue graduate school, but I was a bit worried about finding the required funding for my research. Without external funding, I was not sure I would even be able to go. In order to make myself desirable as a potential graduate student, I decided to apply for scholarships, and one of these was a CST Graduate Award.

Anyone who has had an RESP with CST and is planning on going to grad school is eligible to apply, and since I had already benefitted from the organization to help fund my undergraduate degree, I thought I’d give it a shot. My advice, to anyone who is eligible, is simply to apply, as the process is pretty standard as far as scholarship applications go and it was quite straightforward!

When I got the call from CST that I was one of the lucky recipients of the CST Graduate Award - everything turned around. With the award backing my education, I had the assurance that I could go to the graduate school I wanted and pursue the research I was most interested in. The CST Graduate Award has made all the difference in allowing me to pursue a graduate degree.

Marine dream: the conservation of coral reefs

Starting my Master’s at UVic feels like I am fulfilling my childhood dream of working in marine biology with coral reefs. I hope that by taking a Master’s in Biology, I can continue my pursuit of knowledge and then apply all that I have learned to a career in conservation. I would like to make a contribution to the community and continue trying to preserve the beauty and diversity of our planet’s ecosystems.

Jenny Smith is a CST beneficiary and a Graduate Award recipient. It was Jenny’s fascination with the Great Barrier Reef that drove her desire to study corals. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Biology at the University of Victoria to study the effects of climate change and anthropogenic disturbance on coral reef resilience.