Nicole Machado, Pharmacology and Toxicology
An inclusive and impactful leader, as described by Dr. Ashraf of the University of Toronto, is someone who creates and holds space for people to share their stories and amplify them. This definition resonates with me greatly as it something I personally strive for in leadership roles and personally seek out in a mentor. Being able to be create and hold a space for others to grow, I have found, can stem from three important actions. The first is maintaining open communication channels with peers. The second action involves anticipating the needs of others and providing comprehensive support. And lastly, the third action is sincerely dedicating one’s effort and time in tasks undertaken. Throughout my time at the University of Toronto (U of T), I have tried to approach all my responsibilities with sincere effort, a strong emphasis on effective communication skills, and a keen awareness of the needs of others. I believe this leadership philosophy has shaped my development during my academic, research, and community-based endeavours and, as a consequence, has also benefitted those around me.
I have been fortunate to take on several different leadership roles during my time at U of T. During my second year of university, I was a Frosh Leader, leading a cohort of 15 students through their transition to university and first-year activities. In my second year I was elected as the Social and Outreach Co-ordinator for the U of T Drama Coalition, a student group that governs the 7 different drama societies across the three campuses. I helped organize several social events for over 200 students, such as the annual 3-day drama festival, the annual awards ceremony, and a playwriting contest. In my third year of university I became an Assistant Peer Mentor for a Life Sciences First Year Learning Community (FLC). In this role I helped facilitate bi-weekly mentorship sessions for 25 first year students centered on academic, social, and career development. I thoroughly enjoyed working in an FLC and came back in my fourth year as a Peer Mentor for the Second Year Learning Community (SLC) with the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department for ~ 40 students. In all of these roles, I looked forward to bringing together people and creating spaces that helped students feel welcomed, connect with their peers, feel supported in their transition to university, be recognized for their artistic talents and more. This responsibility of creating a positive place for to students grow was one I took very seriously and dedicated much effort towards. It required frequently checking in with students, listening to their needs, and doing my best to provide the right support.
Throughout my undergraduate degree I have also spent much time off-campus volunteering in my community for groups and initiatives important to me. During weekly church services, I have served as an altar server and a lector for Epiphany of Our Parish for over ten years. I have also been involved in other initiatives in my church community such as aiding at fundraiser dinners and leading youth group bible studies. Additionally, I have spent over 5 years volunteering at North York General Hospital in their senior health center, pharmacy, and in-patient departments. During my year abroad, I would spend 2-3 weekends per month serving meals at a women’s shelter in Boston, an initiative close to my heart. While volunteering in these various capacities, in order to create safe spaces in religious communities or with vulnerable populations, I learned a lot about being attentive to the needs of people of all walks of life and using effective communication to best serve them. I had to learn the right moments to share or listen and to act or wait patiently, as called for by the particular situational context.
My pursuits in biomedical research have also been important to my development as a leader. After my second year of university, I trained in Dr. Salmena’s oncology laboratory at U of T, resulting in the publication of my code in an open journal for a computational project. After my third year, I moved to Boston to complete my Professional Experience Year Co-op at the Langer laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During this internship I developed medical devices and experimental therapeutics for use in oncology. I collaborated on several projects, earning co-authorship on a research article regarding 3D-printed radioprotective devices and first authorship on a review on novel biotechnology derived from extremophiles. At MIT I discovered my passion for biomedical engineering research, which lead me to conduct my fourth-year thesis project in the Santerre laboratory at U of T. For my thesis project, I am currently assisting in developing an artificial vascular prosthesis from synthetic nanofibers seeded with stem-cells. Through the various opportunities available at U of T, I have been able to pursue my passion for innovative bioengineered solutions in healthcare and hope to continue in this field by attending graduate school. In my FLC and SLC mentorship work, I constantly share resources, experiences and social connections with mentees to help provide them with the tools to navigate their own career and academic journey. Sharing knowledge with underclassman that I know I would like to have received at their stage, is an important part of creating an inclusive space for others to grow.
Lastly, I strive to give my best efforts in all that I take on, especially when it comes to my academics. I have been fortunate to receive several scholarships for my academic achievements, earning $10, 000 of merit based financial aid over the course of my undergraduate degree. Moreover, I am currently a finalist for the inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarship at McGill University. This program awards outstanding citizens for their commitment to community, integrity, and innovation, by fully funding a graduate degree and enrolling scholars in an intensive leadership development curriculum.
In the last 5 years, as a U of T student, the opportunities I have been given to learn, grow, and give back to my community have molded me to the leader I am today. In this space I learned the importance of impactful, inclusive leadership and how to create the same spaces and opportunities to help others learn, grow, and amplify their own stories.