A tip about the word “college” to my American neighbo[u]rs who wish to work in Canada

Canadian English and American English are very similar, allowing Anglophones in both countries to work and live with ease when crossing the border.  However, there is a subtle difference in our vocabularies that can have big consequences for job searches and professional development.  To my American neighbours (or neighbors, as it is spelled in the United States of America), I offer this tip to avoid any confusion.  It concerns our different usages of the words “college” and “university”.

Peace_Arch_Monument,_Canada_-_USA_border

The Peace Arch is a monument situated between Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia. Near this monument is a major border crossing between the USA and Canada.

Image courtesy of RGB2 from Wikimedia.

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My Silver Medal from the Canadian Society for Chemistry – Reflections After 10 Years

In June, 2008, I received an email from Dr. Ken MacFarlane, then the Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University (SFU).  He wrote to inform me that I had won the Canadian Society for Chemistry‘s Silver Medal, given to the top undergraduate student in chemistry entering their final year of study at each Canadian university.

I won the Canadian Society for Chemistry’s Silver Medal for being the top fourth-year student in the Department of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University in 2008.

Later in November of that year, I received this medal at a dinner banquet, which honoured all of the award winners from the universities and colleges in the Vancouver Section of the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC).  (Awards were given to the top students in their second year, third year, and fourth year of study.)  Here is a photo of me receiving my medal from Dr. Daniel Leznoff; he was then the Chair of the Vancouver Section of the CIC and a professor specializing in inorganic chemistry at SFU.

Eric getting medal from Dr. Leznoff

I received the Canadian Society for Chemistry’s Silver Medal from Dr. Daniel Leznoff at a dinner banquet in November, 2008.

The CIC publishes a magazine called Canadian Chemical News, and it covered the above award banquet in January, 2009.  You can find a photo of the award winners from that night on Page 29.

Dr. Cameron Forde succeeded Dr. MacFarlane as our Undergraduate Advisor in 2009.  In an email to me in October, 2009, Dr. Forde wrote that 100-120 students were eligible for the CSC’s Silver Medal in our department in 2008.

This is one of the greatest achievements of my life.  I am even more excited about it today than I was at that banquet, because I now have 10 years of perspective about how this medal has benefited my career.  In this retrospective article, I write to share my reflections about the impact that this medal has had on my professional trajectory – which has been unusual, to say the least.

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Leaving My Dream Career – Reflecting on My Decision 10 Years Later

I just couldn’t pretend any longer.

It was near the end of my second year at Simon Fraser University.  My GPA was pretty high, and I had just won a competitive NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award to work with an accomplished cardiac physiologist.  I attended all of the relevant seminars to get the “inside scoop” on how to successfully apply to medical school, and I volunteered in numerous organizations to demonstrate my non-academic credentials.  I had already developed good relationships with several professors who would have gladly written strong recommendations for my application.  All of the stars were aligning for my path to medical school.

I was also miserable, angry and devoid of any further motivation to stay on that path.

crossroads

Image courtesy of Carsten Tolkmit from Flickr.  Obtained via the Creative Commons License.

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Eric’s Enlightenment for Tuesday, May 19, 2015

  1. Melanie Bailey leads a team of scientists in developing a fingerprint test for cocaine use.  It “is based on surface mass spectrometry.  It desorbs molecules from fingerprints and detects not only cocaine but also its two metabolites, benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine, showing that the drug has been ingested, rather than only touched”.
  2. 7 non-anglophone countries where anglophone university students can earn post-secondary degrees in English for free.
  3. Paul Romer criticizes economic growth theorists for committing “mathiness” – the use of words and symbols that “leaves ample room for slippage between statements in natural versus formal language and between statements with theoretical as opposed to empirical content”.  He supplements this paper with a nice blog post, and he responds to Noah Smith and Brad DeLong in a follow-up blog post.
  4. A randomized trial (n = 2538) of 4 different programs concludes that reward-based financial incentives work well in motivating smokers to quit smoking.  (Paying people to stop smoking works!)  Hat Tip: Alex Tabarrok.