Meet Srinidhi Balaji:
Srinidhi Balaji is a 4th year Biomedical Science student who has been extremely involved in experiential learning throughout her time at the University of Guelph. Srinidhi has held three Undergraduate Research Assistantships (URA) where she worked in the Integrative Biology, Marketing and Consumer Studies, and Engineering Departments. She also participated in the URA Showcase twice, presenting her research as a URA. Srinidhi has been a Residence Assistant (RA) in East Residence for U of G Housing Services where she has helped first year students transition to university life, and has participated in various co-curricular activities including student clubs and organizations. Srinidhi shares her secrets of how she balances it all, and talks more about the value of experiential learning.
How did you find out about the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URA)? How did your experiences differ between the different URAs that you have completed?
“I learned about URAs via the Experience Guelph website. They posted announcements about Work Study and URA opportunities. I found it very interesting that undergraduate students can get first-hand exposure to exciting research projects and develop their lab techniques. I have had the privilege of doing a URA every summer of my undergrad career. In chronological order, I have bounced between the Integrative Biology Department, Marketing and Consumer Studies Department and the Engineering Department. The key difference in the URAs has to do with the type of research going on. For example, the Integrative Biology Department was conducting PCR on herbal food samples to detect contamination, while the Marketing and Consumer Studies Department was conducting market research about how different clients set prices for different products. In all, each URA was enriching and allowed me to develop various skills and gain amazing contacts.”
Did you enjoy participating in the URA Showcase this past summer? If so, what was the best thing you took away from that experience?
“I have participated in the URA showcase twice. My first time (S20) I presented my Marketing and Consumer Studies (MCS) project titled: Competition through Risky Marketing Strategies: the 4Ps Consideration, where I talked about how various marketing strategies play different roles in generating revenue for the firms. It was an amazing experience and allowed me to connect with different students in other Departments and learn about their projects. I enjoyed the experience so much I participated in it again in S21 on behalf of my engineering URA and presented the project titled Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticles using Chemical Reduction and Green Synthesis Methods. Overall, research showcases are an amazing way to gain experience presenting your research and also to connect with other researchers and build a network.”
What was your role as a Residence Assistant (RA) in East Residence?
“I joined Student Housing Services (SHS) as an RA during my second year of study. As an East RA, I worked to aid first year students transition to university life and residence. I aided them by planning community meetings, RA chats, and community events. I was able to build a fun and comforting environment for all my students and made sure they had the best first year experience possible.”
What was your favourite part about being an RA?
“I really liked RA chats. It allowed me to connect with each student on a personal level and help them better achieve their goals.”
What is the College of Biological Sciences Student Council (CBSSC)? What types of events do you run as VP of events in CBSSC?
“CBSSC is a student organization that represents all students within the College of Biological Sciences (CBS). As VP events I planned bonding, leisure, and educational/informational events for the students of CBS. I planned and ran events for 1) Grad school networking, 2) Professional school night, 3) Research experience night and 4) Electives Information sessions to name a few. We also run some leisure events like Skribblio and movie nights to allow students to meet other people with similar interests.”
What have you learned in the process of event planning?
“To have a successful turn out for an event, you have to make sure that you are planning the event suitable to your target audience. For example, if you have a cohort of commerce students, a grad panel that includes most people doing an MSc. in Biology might not be ideal. Even when planning leisure events like movie nights, make sure the movie selected aligns with their interests and preferences.”
What is a Supported Learning Group (SLG) leader? What was your experience in this role?
“A Supported-Learning-Group Leader provides course-specific support for students outside of classes. I am the SLG leader for PSYCH*1000. An SLG leader is a trained undergraduate student who helps students succeed in historically challenging courses. Sessions are free peer-led study groups that review course material and demonstrate new approaches to difficult concepts.”
How do you balance Work Study/URA, academics, and extra curriculars?
“I am a very ambitious individual and thrive off challenges. I have carefully selected each Work Study, URA and extra-curricular opportunity that I believed would allow me to develop career-specific skills and build relationships. Time management during the year can be hard with so much going on but it is possible to do with an effective planning strategy. I personally use a big white-board calendar to write down each task, assignment and exam down for the whole semester at the beginning and cross things off as the semester progresses. It is also important to schedule in breaks and time for de-stressing activities; a little time to pick yourself up doesn't hurt either.”
Has experiential learning helped your personal, academic, and/or professional development? If so, how?
“I believe as a result of my Work Study, URA and extra-curricular experiences I will be a unique candidate when applying for work and/or graduate programs. I have developed various lab skills that I can apply to an array of job positions.”
What is the value of experiential learning to you?
“Experiential learning is very important to me. As a student in a Bachelor of Science, it is hard to gain access to graduate programs and entry-level jobs as there is a lot of people with a BSc. However, just a BSc. doesn't ensure that the candidate has hand-on experience with essential lab skills; experiential learning fills the gaps and empowers undergraduate students.”