Meet Hisba Zuhair:
Hisba Zuhair is a fourth year Bachelor of Science student at the University of Guelph, studying Biomedical Toxicology. With an expected graduation in 2022, Hisba has participated in several co-op work terms, having worked as a Junior Policy Analyst and a Junior Scientific Evaluator for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as well as a QA Lab Technician and a Laboratory Technician for agricultural labs. Through co-op, she expanded her understanding of what a Biomedical Toxicology student could do with their degree, and she was able to learn applicable, hands-on skills in her field. Hisba talks about her experience with co-op, the opportunity of moving to a new city while gaining work experience, her new perspectives about working in her field, and her best advice for new co-op students.
What were your roles in your various co-op work terms?
“During my co-op work terms, I was involved in a wide range of jobs. This included working as a Junior Policy Analyst and a Junior Scientific Evaluator for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Additionally, I also worked as a QA Lab Technician and a Laboratory Technician for two agricultural labs.”
“As a Policy Analyst, I was lucky enough to experience how a Federal Agency functions from various perspectives. Whether it was attending inter-Agency meetings or meetings between various teams within the Agency, each experience taught me something different. The lessons I learned here gave me a foundation to excel in my future positions.”
“Through one of the Directors I met during my time as a Junior Policy Analyst, I was introduced to another team within the Agency. Here, I was performing work relevant to Toxicology and met my supervisor who extended my work term and hired me as a Junior Scientific Evaluator.”
“My last two work terms were at Grober Inc. and SGS Canada Inc. At these places, I was performing tasks that aimed to ensure the quality of products. Whether this was products to be consumed by animals, such as milk replacers, or determining the quality of grains, these two jobs allowed me to experience how a scientific lab functions.”
What was your favourite project you worked on during co-op?
“This question is difficult to answer because I viewed co-op as a package with a wide array of experiences. Of these, the most enjoyable experience was working as a Junior Scientific Evaluator for CFIA. On the job, I was performing tasks that aimed to assist the team in future decision-making processes; this included conducting literature reviews and performing screening assessments for microorganisms used for supplemental purposes in agriculture. The most captivating aspect of this job was the constant learning associated with the work.”
“Additionally, my time as a Jr. Scientific Evaluator was more than just performing the given tasks, as this experience enabled me to step outside of my comfort zone. As someone who is very shy, I once dreaded situations that involved speaking in front of a large audience. However, after presenting my project at the Plant Resource Managers Forum, I was able to gain more confidence within myself, and I am now less reluctant to be involved in public speaking. Finally, the cherry on top of this whole experience was living in a new city. For me, moving to Ottawa was an incredible experience; I was able to experience all that the city had to offer, and learn to navigate life independently, all while getting job experience.”
How has co-op helped you understand what you want to pursue in the future?
“Prior to entering university, I had quite a narrow view of what a science graduate can do. That is, I believed that the only job available for science graduates was in a lab. While I always assumed that my future would entail me working in a lab setting, I realized that I no longer have to limit myself; co-op has shown me the endless opportunities I can potentially pursue. Whether it was actually experiencing the job in itself, or even applying and interviewing for different positions, I realized that there are endless opportunities for graduates to pursue.”
Is there anything you learned about working hands-on in the Biomedical Toxicology field that surprised you?
“Biomedical Toxicology, like other Science majors, undoubtedly has a lot of lab work involved. Naturally, I believed that I would work in a lab after graduating. However, the opportunities for a B.TOX student go beyond lab work. For me, I realized this while working with CFIA, as the job here enabled me to apply the knowledge from Toxicology when performing tasks such as risk assessments. Even beyond this position, I was rather surprised by the number of opportunities, and their variety, when applying for jobs during my co-op searches.”
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
“This is a question that I have been receiving rather frequently over the past couple of months – to be completely honest, I am not 100% certain of what I will be doing after I graduate. While I plan to return to school for post-graduate studies, I am also interested in applying for jobs in order to obtain some more experience.”
What's your advice to anyone entering co-op?
“For anyone that is entering co-op, I have three pieces of advice. First, do not be afraid to leave your comfort zone when job searching. As I mentioned before, I was under the impression that I only wanted to work in a lab setting, but the job that I enjoyed the most was working as a Scientific Evaluator.”
“Second, expand your search criteria; co-op is a package containing various components – the job itself is just one of these components. By broadening your search criteria (for me, this was the location), you will have greater exposure to different types of jobs and be able to experience things you would have never imagined.”
“Finally, and most importantly, enjoy your work terms and maximize your time at these jobs. This includes forming relationships with your team members and networking within the workplace when possible. Additionally, choose skills that you want to improve, and use this time to enhance them. Your time as a co-op student is a chance for you to experience all the opportunities available to you and determine what interests you, so make the most of what is offered!”