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Photo of Munashe Nhunzwi, a Black student with a red and white sweatshirts on, smiling at the camera.

Munashe Nhunzwi, 4-year Biochemistry Co-op major

The power of working in labs and having the right information

Black History Month 2024 with Faculty of Science student Munashe Nhunzwi

February 20, 2024 — 

Munashe Nhunzwi is a 4-year Biochemistry Co-op major who has also worked in Dr. Sabine Kuss’s lab in the department of chemistry. In this interview, she shares the importance of working in a lab and developing experiments from scratch. She mentions lack of or delayed access to the correct information to be one of the main challenges for students when it comes to their studies and says she is determined to support prospective students with her knowledge as everyone “deserve[s] the correct information and the right guidance for their journey in university.”

1. Can you share a pivotal moment in your journey in science so far that fueled your passion for biochemistry?

I think a moment that was quite significant for me was during an organic chemistry lab where we were required to make up our own experiment to form soap! I had never made my own experiment but after some research and planning, I had come up with a procedure. To my surprise, I successfully made soap in that lab experiment and that just showed me that I had creative potential and willingness to learn more and do more in biochemistry.

2. How has working in Sabin Kuss’s lab influenced your understanding of biochemistry? Are there projects you have been working on that excite you?

Working in Sabine Kuss’s lab gave me good work experience that one would normally not see in a classroom lab setting. Working with electrodes and whole grain toxins was really interesting as well as conducting the experiments. I mastered analytical techniques in electrochemistry during my term under her guidance that I know will be beneficial in the future for my prospective field in science. Currently, I am working on an exciting project that involves the effects of shift work (overnight working) on cardiovascular health during pregnancy and the effects it has on fetus development at the St Boniface research centre.

3. In your journey so far, have you experienced any unique challenges in the Faculty of Science? How have you navigated those challenges?

From experience, my specific focus, biochemistry, went through some course schedule changes in the semester that I declared it as my major. Some of the courses I had done were not considered prerequisites anymore and credit hours had been added to my list. I spoke to the science advisor about the situation, and she assured me that the extra credit hours could be fulfilled by any electives I wanted to take. She also encouraged me to always audit my degree every semester to make sure I stay on top of all requirements.

4. What can the department, faculty or university do to remove barriers that cause those challenges or support students in those areas?

I think the department can make the students aware of any major course changes concerning their prospective degrees well in advance before entering that specific faculty. This helps the student to better plan their courses and class schedules hopefully for future semesters.

5. Being part of the scientific community, how do you actively contribute to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion within the Faculty of Science?

I’m always looking out for opportunities in information sessions, skills workshops, poster competitions grants and awards to understand more about the options available to international students in science. Knowing all this I can help the next person in need of academic assistance or at the very least refer them to the right resources in making their decisions. At the end of the day, they deserve the correct information and the right guidance for their journey in university.

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