A Quick Study with Cameron Parro
About A Quick Study
This ongoing series is aimed at getting to know what motivates and inspires UBC students about their learning — inside and outside the classroom.
On the intersection of natural science and humanities, Blue Chip Cookies, Led Zeppelin, and flow.
Meet Cameron Parro, Sciences student.
CP: My choice to come to UBC was motivated by adventure. I knew about UBC’s great undergraduate science program, and its rank as one of the best research universities in North America, but my knowledge of the school and the city didn’t extend far beyond this. As a native Californian, I wanted to try something new and exciting, but still stay on the west (best) coast, and Vancouver seemed like the perfect fit. The combination of beaches, forests, parks, mountains, and metropolitan atmosphere drew me to Vancouver. As it turns out, I’m now a full-blown Vancouverite/Canadian wannabe and hope to get my citizenship soon after I graduate.
You are doing a major in biology and a minor in Psychology. Can you explain your choice to pursue both?
CP: I’m pursuing a BSc in biology, with a minor in psychology. I originally chose the biology program in hopes of one day going to medical school, though this desire was overshadowed as I found more interest in basic, theoretical science. In my second year I took the year-long introduction to psychology course (PSCY 100) and only a day into the biopsychology unit I realized this perfect intersection of natural science and humanities dominated my intellectual curiosity.
I now hope to go on to study neuroscience at the graduate level and beyond. I derive unwavering inspiration from the rapidly expanding field of neuroscience. For me it represents the application of a biological framework to the seemingly inexplicable phenomena of human experience. The combination of biology and psychology really feels for me – and this certainly isn’t a feeling exclusive to any program or field of study – to be the most intuitive and effective way of thinking about and living in the world as it is today. It just made perfect sense to put the two together, and I haven’t looked back since!
What are your favourite hangouts on campus?
CP: There are a couple of spots around campus that I’ve come back to for three years now and still love frequenting today. The Rose garden and Nitobe garden, especially now that spring is here and the flowers are blossoming, are two of the most serene and beautiful places I’ve found anywhere in Vancouver, and we’re incredibly lucky to have them right here on campus! I also find myself in the line at Blue Chip Cookies far more often than my budget or diet can handle, but those cookies are truly irresistible.
What has to happen for you to lose yourself in your work?
CP: This experience, termed ‘flow’ in the psychology world, is hard to describe, and even harder to achieve. The first time I’d say I really felt lost in my work was studying for my first Psych 304 (Brain & Behaviour) exam. It was a perfect culmination of motivation, inspiration, challenge, and application. I wanted to do well on the test, of course, but beyond this, I felt like I was applying my foundation in biology to challenging psychological ideas that really had personal and profound meaning. It is this sense of meaning, a personal and universal relevance, that drives me to the point where I lose myself in my work.
What is on your playlist these days?
CP: I’ve been here and there with music recently; some classic rock, like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, some contemporary indie/electronic including Hundred Waters, Grizzly Bear, Flight Facilities, Father John Misty, and Mount Kimbie, and a bit of hip hop like Isaiah Rashad, DJ Danger Mouse, and Kendrick Lamar.
You are currently doing a coop placement—what do you like best about it?
CP: I think the thing I’ve enjoyed most about my first two months as a laboratory assistant in a microbiology lab is the full immersion into the lab work and environment. I never thought I’d get the opportunity to experience the daily life and times of a scientist without at least one degree under my belt, but taking part in the coop has given me this wonderful opportunity to really know what scientists do, and how science is done on a day-to-day level as a third-year undergrad. I fully endorse the science coop to any and all science students pursuing a career in research!
If you could go back to your first year self and tell them something surprising about your third year experience at UBC what might it be?
CP: There are a few things I’d tell my first year self, some of them encouraging and some disciplinary. Firstly, that UBC feels smaller and smaller each year. I was an intimidated first year student, overwhelmed by the number of people living in Totem Park alone, and the size of first year science classes. I’ve learned that classes get smaller and more intimate with each year, and that the huge number of people at UBC only means that there’s that many more people with whom I have common interests. I would also tell myself that those required first year courses are, as much as I dismissed them, vital to a strong foundation of scientific understanding. "Don’t slack off Cameron, because you’re going to hate yourself for it when you realize you really do want to understand basic chemistry and even go to graduate school!"
What does your dream job look like?
CP: While I am a willing captive of the unpredictable forces of life, I currently dream of holding the title of Principle Investigator. This is essentially the boss of a research lab, and from what I understand, gets paid to be (diligently) curious. To me, this means getting to ask the big questions and being provided with the means to pursue some sort of answers. I can’t think of anything that sounds like more fun than acting like a baby in a sandbox and getting paid for it.