A Quick Study with Nishat Tasnim

This ongoing series is aimed at getting to know what motivates and inspires UBC students about their learning — inside and outside the classroom.

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Nishat Tasnim

On growing, learning, thriving, microscopic organisms, Keane, Nirvana, accepting and embracing failure for all its benefits, and finding a purpose for your education.

Meet Nishat Tasnim, Biology, Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, UBC Okanagan.


Why UBC?

NT: A series of crazy coincidences during my final year of high school.

A poster of UBC hung on my wall when I was finishing up my final year of high school. I had found it in the library and decided for some reason that it belonged on my bedroom wall. Fast forward a few months and, knowing my academic interests and financial needs, my school principal nominates me for a scholarship to UBC. I think about which campus I should pick, and the answer comes easily: Okanagan. To this day, I still love the sound of the word. To me, it means growing, learning and thriving at the best university campus in the world.

Nishat Tasnim Nishat Tasnim


Now, You are about to graduate — congratulations on your achievement! Does it feel like ‘only yesterday’ you were in first year or does it feel like you’ve been studying for a pretty long time?

Nishat Tasnim

NT: To a student, time is a distorted quantity; it stretches and flexes according to the time of year and the amount of work due. The perception of time is actually a great indicator of the ups and downs of a journey. My university experience was rife with moments of self-doubt and self-confidence, ups and downs and everything in between. In retrospect, I am amazed that it’s complete! I guess that is a testament to how long I thought the journey would be and how I discovered in the end its precious finitude.


What were your favourite hangouts on campus?

Nishat Tasnim

NT: I never spent too much time at any one spot (except, of course, for the library). And where I spend my time depends on the day’s weather and season. I like being outdoors as much as possible. In my spare time, I enjoyed walking around on campus with a friend or sitting on a bench in the trails behind campus. I usually like quieter spaces for thinking and decompressing at the end of the day. I guess for that reason, my favorite place was my residence room where I did some yoga and read at the end of each day.


What was one lesson you learned from someone else during your time at UBC?

NT: I have been inspired and mentored by so many. I’ve learned from my peers, advisors, university administrators and professors. Because I felt that I was part of a supportive community, one of the greatest lessons I have learned at UBC is that we are never alone, and that we cannot achieve much alone. My UBC experience has truly shattered for me any illusion of isolation.

Nishat Tasnim Nishat Tasnim


As a Biology major, what have you learned during your degree that has influenced the kind of work you’d like to do after you graduate?

Nishat Tasnim

NT: Due to my undergraduate research experience, I have a renewed appreciation for microscopic organisms. Bacteria, Viruses, and Achaea are everywhere, and we live with many of them symbiotically. We carry about 2 pounds of microbes on our own bodies! That makes us colonies of creatures, a sum of parts. I’m spending the next two years as a Graduate student learning about microorganisms that reside in our bodies, specifically the microbes in our gut.


Our university motto is Tuum Est (it is yours). Do you feel like you made UBC yours?

NT: YES! To make this experience work, you have to take ownership. All of the volunteering, studying, writing, reading, speaking, thinking and dreaming that takes place here is new, unexpected and unique. I created my own narrative as a UBC student by reaching out to people, learning about every department for student involvement, saying yes to new opportunities, having lots of amazing conversations, getting out of my comfort zone, and pushing myself to do better. It’s really easy to do once you say yes.

Nishat Tasnim


One song that was on your playlist in first year and still is?

NT: I lost all the music I brought with me during the first week; as a fumbling freshman, I forgot my USB drive at the library. I did listen to Coldplay’s Don’t Panic and Sparks, and Keanne’s Somewhere Only We Know and Everybody’s Changing. I’m listening to more Nirvana these days but those songs are always on my feel-good playlist.


Any top tips for the incoming class of first year students?

NT: I have the following aspirations written on my wall that I will pass on as advice to you: achieve a deep approach to learning; achieve a creative and productive life; accept and embrace failure for all its benefits; find a purpose for your education, take control of the process, and believe that you can constantly expand your abilities and achieve.