The department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology is thrilled to announce the 2023 Astell Award Winners; William Stewart and Maya Nue-Lee! Congratulations!
The Astell Award is to recognize trainees at all levels in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UBC for outstanding commitment to activities related to promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI).
William Stewart, Graduate Student
Will is a second-year graduate student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB)department. He is a proponent for research excellence and an advocate for Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) principles. Will promotes EDI principles through his involvement with initiatives within the Michael Smith Labs (MSL), BMB department, and Kirkness Scholar’s program.
Will is heavily involved with promoting EDI principles in the MSL as a founding member of the MSL EDI board game committee. This committee is tasked with designing a board game to introduce EDI topics in an approachable and easily digestible manner for use in onboarding and outreach programs. Additionally, Will is a Graduate student representative on the MSL EDI committee where he advocates for EDI at the MSL. Through these initiatives, Will got involved with the MSL EDI workshop program where he is involved with organizing and facilitating the MSL EDI workshop series which include topics such as: EDI Basics, and Building Queer and Trans Inclusive Spaces.
Will has been involved with peer mentorship throughout his undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph and continued this work during his Master’s Degree at UBC. Through the BMB peer mentor program, Will has provided both technical and career advice to younger peers. Will also participated in the 2023 Kirkness scholar program with the Brumer Lab. The lab supported and mentored two indigenous students that earned scholarships to come to UBC and participate in a weeklong project to inspire interest in STEM. Will hopes to continue to expand support and awareness of EDI principles within all communities that he is involved with.
Maya Nue-Lee, Undergraduate Student
Maya is an undergraduate biochemistry student with a great desire to help others. Maya’s passion for working with children led her to volunteer in the classroom setting to help students with diverse special needs. She helped adapt lessons for STEM subjects and helped support students with behavioural challenges.
Maya was inspired to seek more experience working with children at BC Children’s Hospital. She has volunteered in the Emergency Department supporting parents, siblings, and patients in challenging circumstances. At the Sunny Hill Health Centre at BC Children’s Hospital, Maya interacts with children of diverse needs and is able to show extra support with her knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL). Maya is an advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community to promote inclusivity in the health care setting.
Maya has also been committed to making a difference in the lives of the unhoused people of her community. Her desire to work from problem to solution moved her to lead wellness workshops in the Downtown East Side to empower people to see hope and possibility. She believes every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Maya recognizes the importance of learning about Indigenous cultures and wants to help with efforts to decolonize science. Maya is determined to see the science community be one that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive.
The Astell Award was name after Dr. Caroline Astell one of the first women faculty in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UBC. Dr. Astell completed her undergraduate degree in Math/Zoology, Masters in Genetics and PhD in Biochemistry/Nucleic Acids all at UBC. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Rockefeller University in the USA, she worked at the University of Toronto as a Research Associate and then as an Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary.
She then returned to UBC as a Research Associate and advanced through the ranks to Assistant, Associate and full Professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr. Astell’s research focused on understating the molecular biology of animal viruses and the structure and replication of eukaryotic chromosomes. She had both an impressive funding and publication track record, leading to over 62 published papers, numerous book chapters and patents and a co-authored book on Nobel Laureate Michael Smith. Dr. Astell was also a dedicated member of the department, leading many committees and the BC Genome Sciences Center. She was also an avid instructor in Biochemistry and directly mentored 11 graduate students and served on over 40 student supervisory committees during her career. Dr. Astell retired from UBC in 2004 and continues to serve her local community through volunteer and outreach activities.