Celebrating the graduates of Spring 2021: YiYin Gao

Meet some of the amazing members of the graduating class of Spring 2021 from the Faculty of Science.

Katie Willis - 25 June 2021

This year, the University of Alberta is celebrating the achievements of our graduates with a virtual convocation ceremony on June 25. As we acknowledge the achievements of our graduating class, we’re sharing just a few of the amazing stories of our graduates.

One such graduate convocating this year is YiYin Gao, graduating with a BSc in biological sciences with a minor in psychology, and whose academic achievement is recognized with the Dean’s Gold Medal in Science. The medal is awarded to the convocating student from the general program in the Faculty of Science who has shown the highest distinction in scholarship.

Congratulations, YiYin! 

What brought you to the U of A?

Having lived in Edmonton for most of my life, the University of Alberta was definitely my top choice as it is both a highly prestigious and accessible institution.

Tell us about your experience in the Faculty of Science.

My time here in the Faculty of Science has been unlike any other experience I have ever had. While I learned what stress and anxiety truly mean, I have also had the most enriching and uplifting pleasures of meeting fellow classmates, teaching assistants, and professors. Turning to a neighbouring seat-mate in a lecture hall could give me a memorable conversation that would brighten up the rest of my day, or even a lasting new friendship. 

While a full course load could be overwhelming at times, it helped immensely knowing that I really wasn’t alone and that there were others experiencing struggles similar to my own. On top of the many opportunities and events provided for by clubs and the faculty itself, it really isn’t hard to find things to enjoy and peers to befriend.

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at the U of A?

I don’t have one particular favourite memory here. Whenever I think back on my four years, I remember the stimulating times spent during labs, anxiety-ridden exam-writing experiences, and either rushing down student-packed hallways or simply calmly waiting in front of a lecture hall for my next class. What made all of these relatively ordinary experiences so note-worthy to me was who I actually got to spend this time with. Whether it was scrambling to find good reasons why I attained such a low yield in chemistry labs, non-productive group study sessions, or procrastinating by ordering food from Tim’s, everything was made enjoyable and memorable because of the friends I got to spend this time with.

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

To really, really take care of both your mental and physical health. Yes, the three midterms taking place within a span of two days should be a priority in your life as they probably constitute quite a bit of your grade. The subjects themselves may be extremely hard to study for. But they definitely shouldn’t be a reason to put off taking care of your body. As overwhelming as the influx of information may be for courses in general, please know that no matter how you do on a test, course, or even throughout your time here, these things don’t define your worth as a person. Your dreams are attainable and life isn’t a race. You can get to where you want to be on your own time and you are plenty amazing enough already on your own! So please, never let the stress or anxiety of school overtake your health. As long as you tried your best here, then that’s more than anyone could ever ask of you!

How have you spent your free time during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Mostly just staying inside and partaking in a lot of Zoom calls! It really isn’t as eventful as I would like. I go out for a walk or two every now and then but most of my pandemic was spent inside, where I attended lectures, studied, and occasionally took breaks to call up some friends for some fun. 

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?

With friends and family! I am very much looking forward to being able to dress up a little, to hang out with a few close friends, and to eat a lot of food. It still hasn’t really set in that my undergraduate career is finally over, so I hope celebrating convocation can help with that.

What's next after graduation?

There are many paths I can take and I plan to consider and try as many as I can. There are a lot of potential future careers that pique my interest and I hope somewhere down the line I can find something I am truly passionate about.