Sister act: Twin versus twin in national science competition
Published Tuesday, April 5, 2016 11:10AM EDT
The stakes are high for twin sisters from Mississauga, Ont., who are set to compete in one of the country's most prestigious science competitions. The 18-year-old siblings will not only square off against other talented students from across the country, they'll also compete against each other.
Aqsa and Faiyza Alam will be participating in the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition, which kicks off in Toronto on Wednesday. The contest sees students pursue real-world research projects with the help of a mentor.
Past research projects at the competition have focused on several different areas of research, including diseases, agriculture and the environment.
The sisters told CTV News Channel that they aren't fazed at the prospect of competing against one another.
"We don't see it as we're competing against each other, but that we're helping each other out," Faiyza Alam said. "We're seeing it as an opportunity that we both get to enjoy."
And the two are used to working closely, often sharing ideas and encouraging one another over evening tea, Aqsa added.
"We always do our projects together, regardless of if we're in class or on opposite sides during a presentation," she said. "We always feel like we're supporting each other, and if one twin happens to win it's an accomplishment for both of us."
The sisters said they've grown to love science, and are particularly drawn to the always-changing nature of the subject.
And, while they're used to sharing ideas, their competition entries are markedly different.
Faiyza Alam's project combines her passion for biology and engineering.
"I'm creating a device that can stretch cells using light," she said, noting it could have potential applications in diagnostic medicine.
Meanwhile, Aqsa Alam’s work focuses on the common spice saffron. For her project, she examined the effects of putting saffron on the white blood cells found in mice.
"We got some quite promising results," she said, noting that saffron has long been used for its medicinal qualities.
"Most people would consider it a common kitchen spice, but it actually has a lot of amazing properties – anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory.”
On the issue of encouraging young women to pursue a career in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), both sisters say what really matters is to push girls to keep learning.
"We realized we enjoyed (science)," Faiyza Alam said. "If other girls don't enjoy it, that really is up to them. Perhaps they enjoy other subjects; perhaps they don't know yet what they enjoy.
"But I say encourage them to keep learning."
Her sister agrees, adding that it's important, particularly in the science subjects, to always stay curious.
"Its origin is in curiosity and learning," Aqsa Alam said. "I find if people enter the science field with the intention of being a doctor or an engineer, it doesn't push them as much as a genuine interest in the subject does."