Q&A with UBC Psychology Wesbrook Scholar Yousef Shahin

Not only is 4th year BSc. Psychology major Yousef Shahin an excelling student, he’s also making waves as a researcher, leader, and mentor. Driven by a passion for psychology and the study of the human body, he’s contributing to the UBC Psychology community and beyond. It’s no wonder that Yousef is a recipient of the 2016/17 Wesbrook Scholar Award, a prestigious designation awarded to senior students with outstanding academic performance, leadership, and involvement in student and community activities.

To name just a few of Yousef’s accomplishments, as VP External of UBC Psi Chi he helped expand the high-school outreach program to include schools in Langley BC. He’s also a co-founder of the first west-coast chapter of Students for Partners in Health Canada. Moreover, he’s a volunteer mentor at UBC AMS VICE; a new program that seeks to find balance in drug, alcohol, or technology addiction. He’s also conducted research at Stigma and Resilience among vulnerable youth as a research assistant.

Today, Yousef takes some time out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions.

First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a big hockey fan. I can name every-single player on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster and will go on about trades, injuries, and player drama if I’m prompted. Besides that, I spend a lot of my spare-time volunteering with various clubs and organizations both on and off-campus. Most are centered around mental health advocacy, global health equity, and community engagement.

Fun Fact: I grew up and spent most of my early-childhood in the United Arab Emirates prior to moving to Vancouver, BC.

What program are you in?

I am in my fourth year at UBC’s BSc. in Psychology with a minor in Cell and Physiological Sciences (CAPS). In brief, I learn a lot about human body systems – especially the nervous system.

Why did you choose psychology?

Science has always been something that fascinated me, and continues to fascinate me every day. I became interested in the brain after taking PSYC 101 in 2013. Learning about the basic mechanisms of brain disorders and the principles that drive certain aspects of behaviour sparked my interest in psychology.

It was only a matter of time after realizing that there was an entire major devoted to studying the brain and how it regulates behaviour.

Do you have any advice for students considering the BSc. program in psychology?

Consider taking advantage of the flexibility provided by the program’s structure. I decided to take on a minor that complimented a lot of the neuroscience concepts I was learning. Also, in the third year of the program, there is an 8-credit statistics course every BSc. Psychology must take: it involves working with a lab studying some aspect of behaviour for a whole year. I would suggest researching labs that interest you prior to this course, so you can start on your research questions, hypotheses, and data-collection early – it helps a lot!

The major itself teaches a lot about psychopharmacology, endocrinology, the central nervous system, behaviour, mood, memory, and cognition – so I’d definitely recommend BSc. Psychology if you’re interested in these fields.

Is there a single most important moment that has stood out for you during your time as a psychology student?

Top of my list is probably spending my 1st semester as a biopsychology student up in 4th floor Kenny. What was I doing up there? Anxiously observing the effects of a cannabinoid receptor antagonist on male-rat sexual behaviour – honestly though, my program’s lab sections provided such a great introduction to research, and have continually reinforced my appreciation for the scientific method.

What is your favourite class, and why?

Just one?! Well PSYC 367 with Prof. Debbie Giaschi was a blast; I enjoyed learning about the ability of our sensory systems to encode different stimuli (e.g., wavelengths, molecules), and how these systems ultimately give rise to all that we perceive. The course is also interactive; there were so many in-class demonstrations and we even conducted small group experiments.

I liked 367 so much that I enrolled in Prof. Giaschi’s PSYC 368 class, where we learn about speech, object, motion, and colour perception!

Which academic and professional achievements are you most proud of?

For the last two years, I’ve had the amazing opportunity of working with Prof. Ryan Watson on a research project. We studied how ‘hook-up’ initiation and outcomes differ in sexual-minority groups (i.e., LGB) in an effort to tailor risk-prevention programs for each sub-group, respectively. The entire experience, beginning with hypothesis formulation to finalizing and editing our manuscript for submission, has been unforgettable – I am so grateful and proud to have taken part in research at UBC, and will continue to integrate research in the future as I progress through my career.

What advice do you have for students on how to carve their own academic path?

Take the time to get to know some of your professors. Many can provide you with life-changing advice as well as academic opportunities that have the potential to shape your future. Also, don’t forget that professors were once undergraduate students and had to work through many of the challenges we, as students, might be facing today.

What do you do when you’re not studying or volunteering?

I enjoy watching and playing hockey in my spare-time. Last year was great because my favourite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins (sorry Canucks), went all the way in the playoffs and won the Stanley Cup! If hockey season is over, I try to catch up on TV-shows or interesting movies – in other words, binge watching shows on Netflix.

What are your plans after graduating?

To spend my youthful-twenties learning some more about the human body; I intend on pursuing a medical degree in Canada.