Vicki Zhang


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    University of Toronto

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I'm a graduate researcher at the University of Toronto interested in asking questions about ecology and evolution, specifically range shifts, biogeography, species interactions and climate change. Previous work I've done in my undergrad involves investigating the distribution and range shifts of two closely related ambush bugs given climate change. Additionally, I've participated in a field course evaluating the effect of human development on aquatic environments and biodiversity. My master's will involve the study of invasive species, investigating their ecology at marginal edges such as the subarctic.
    Broadly, my work aims to understand how species are moving due to biotic interactions, and with anthropogenic stressors and climate change. Given this, I’m also interested in integrating my research to the applied sciences. Applied ecology is crucial for ecological management, biodiversity and conservation. The research that my department and I do is always looking to inform policy and make sustainable, beneficial, long-term changes so that humans and nature can coexist.
    I'm passionate about science communication to spread science awareness and understanding. I think science should be accessible and easily understood. To facilitate this, I have given public talks, mentored, tutored and led study groups. I'm always looking for more ways to showcase research such as through social media, websites and presentations.

  • Profile Question 1
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    Most life science students enter university with the goal of pursuing medicine; I entered university knowing I wanted to work in a lab. My mom worked in a lab at the University of British Columbia and ever since she showed me around UBC, I knew that I wanted to be a scientist, lab coat, goggles and all.
    Although science is such a broad field, I have always been most passionate about our natural environment, thanks to my dad. My dad is an avid camper, hiker, and road tripper. My childhood summers were littered with weeklong trips driving up, down and around the west coast, going to parks, climbing mountains, going to museums, and taking lots of pictures of the natural scenery. I fell in love with the outdoors and nature, and wanted to explore it more carefully through science.
    I can’t think of a specific day or event that made me exclaim “I want to do science!”. Instead, it feels like I had always been on the path towards a science career and that each interaction with science and nature only persuaded me more to study science. Of course, not every scientist is like this. Some of my peers fell in love with science and wanted to pursue it after a specific scientific discovery; others may have switched to science from a completely different career. In my opinion, once a scientist, always a scientist. The skills and knowledge you learn in science will stick with you for probably the rest of your life.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is a typical day like for you?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    There are two seasons a year for me: school season and field season.
    During the school year (from September to April), I’m a graduate student. Before heading to school at UTM, I like to go for a run; I like seeing the city in fast motion, and running wakes me up and helps relieve some stress.
    Once I get to school, I first spend some time replying to emails and marking assignments. Then, it’s time to focus on my own research. I spend some time creating graphs and tables to display my data, and writing up manuscripts. If I have a talk coming up or a deadline to meet, I’ll spend more time preparing for that. When experiments are running in the greenhouse, I’ll also give my plants some TLC by watering them (and sometimes talking to them).
    During the day, there is a lot of science discussion. My lab holds weekly lab meetings, where we talk about science, or present our own discoveries. There are also weekly seminars hosting scientists in other universities. Chatting about science is the best way to learn about science!
    After school, I like to turn my brain off of science for a while. I paddle on a dragon boat team, so I’m at practice some days. Other days, I’m hanging out with friends, or I’m at home reading a book just for fun. To end my day, I make a soothing tea and go back to science by reading a scientific article.
    The field season is May to August. For these four months, I’m outside doing fieldwork so that I can replicate nature in real life, since plant science requires living organisms. This season is probably the most fun I’ll have all year. Depending on where I do field research, days vary. I did a field season at the Koffler Scientific Reserve, where I spent days catching dragonflies and nymphs, taking pictures of flowers and trees, barbecuing, swimming, and doing science experiments outside.

  • Profile Question 3
    (not set)

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
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  • Help represent the outreach efforts of your societies. Please click all those organizations you are a member of:
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  • In addition to English, I am comfortable communicating with students in the following languages:
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  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

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