Celebrating the graduates of Spring 2020: Danielle Cattani

Join us in meeting some of the amazing graduates of Spring 2020, who celebrated convocation on June 12.

News Staff - 14 June 2020

On June 12, the University of Alberta and Faculty of Science community celebrated our first-ever online convocation, recognizing the culmination of our graduates’ hard work. While the format looked different from other years, the significance of the special occasion and pride in our graduates’ achievements was stronger than ever.

Meet Danielle Cattani, who graduated on Friday with a BSc Honors in neuroscience, as she reflects on her UAlberta experience and how her uncle’s journey to recovery after a stroke inspired her to study neuroscience.

What led you to pick the University of Alberta for your studies?

Being from Calgary, I wanted to ensure that I could still remain close to my family but also provide myself with a new sense of independence. 

Another reason is that the University of Alberta is where my mother went to school. As an individual who has always looked up to her mother, it meant the world to me to be able to attend the same campus as my mom and feel even closer to her through doing so. 

Choosing to pursue studies in neuroscience, specifically, was actually inspired by my uncle. After suffering from a stroke and having to deal with the lasting effects of neurological damage, my uncle was constantly being checked by medical professionals to ensure his successful rehabilitation. I remember thinking to myself how intricate the brain is to have been damaged in one instance but create so many lasting and debilitating symptoms. His journey to recovery inspired me to learn more about the brain and the nervous system as a whole. 

Tell us about your experience in the Faculty of Science.

Being a part of the Faculty of Science was truly an honour. Despite some of the hardships I went through during my time as a student, I was always inspired to learn and grow while taking my classes. My professors, especially in third and fourth year, were so passionate that I couldn't help but feel the same passion for many of the subjects that I studied. 

One of my most treasured memories was in Neurobiology (ZOOL 342) when our professor Declan Ali took time out of our class to tell us about his own academic journey. It was both inspiring and humbling to learn about his experiences and it is definitely a moment that I will never forget. 

I am also so grateful to the Faculty of Science for providing me with the opportunity to expand my academic career through research. Having been able to study in two wonderful labs, I can wholeheartedly say that research was one of my favourite aspects of being a student at the university. 

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at UAlberta?

Throughout my university career, starting in second year, I was part of the Neuroscience Students Association. This past winter semester, I was able to organize a pet therapy session for students within the neuroscience program as well as anyone who walked by and wanted to join the event. Being able to provide students and staff with the opportunity to relax and decompress with the therapy dog was so wonderful. Not only was there some amazing conversation, but it truly helped solidify a sense of community at the university for me.

What advice do you have for current and future students at the Faculty of Science?

Make sure that you take care of yourself and try to balance your social and academic life. In my first year I found myself often sleeping less hours, eating fewer meals, and taking up fewer social opportunities in order to keep up with what seemed to be a mountain of work. Definitely do not follow in my first-year footsteps! Create a study schedule and stick to it, but also give yourself ample time to sleep and perform self-care. Once I started following that advice in second year, not only did I feel better, but my grades went up as well. Also, a little bonus tip from me to you, do not eat and study. Make your meals part of your resting time.

One other piece of advice: get involved in research. Taking classes on topics that interest you is wonderful—but actually applying yourself in the field that you are interested in is eye-opening in so many ways. Get out into the action and try to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. The Faculty of Science offers so many lovely research courses, so make sure you take advantage of that. 

How have you spent your time during COVID-19 distancing?

I have been volunteering with a research lab in Calgary on a COVID-19 study as well as studying for the MCAT. This unprecedented time has also brought with it some extra hours to practice self-care and get back into certain hobbies. I have been knitting, playing my ukulele, and learning how to bake some delicious treats.

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?

My family and I will be having a video call party with my family members in Florida and Jamaica. There's going to be some amazing vegan take-out food, music, and tons of laughs. 

What's next after graduation?

I will be starting my master’s in Medical Sciences at the University of Calgary, specializing in developmental psychobiology. I am really looking forward to my future academic career and I cannot wait to see where my journey with education takes me.

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