Meet Melek Pulten
Melek Pulten is pursuing her Honours Bachelor of Science in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph. She currently works as an On-Call Surgery Assistant at the Ontario Veterinary College. In her spare time, she likes to read, do horseback riding, write, game and sketch.
When did your love of STEM begin?
I've been watching nature documentaries for as long as I can remember with my grandmother. Graduating from middle school, I received the science award, despite thinking I would do better in literature. This led me on the path through high school to take all sciences, believing I would go into a biological field in university, which made me remember my childhood desire to be a vet. I'm now in my fourth year of studying Animal Biology, a program I love to my core for teaching me how bodily functions work while focusing on my passion, animals. Being in science was a default for me, my interests wouldn't have it any other way, no matter what the world said.
What is the best part about working in the field of STEM?
The opportunities and the experiences you get out of it. I barely ever held an animal growing up, but when I started getting into the field, it's become a weekly occurrence. Surgery is absolutely fascinating. Animal welfare is complex and draws in different biological disciplines. Physiology gets you thinking about how everything combines into one working system. And there is so many jobs and roles in STEM that you have opportunities to work in anything as long as you reach out and grab your chance. I've also met some of the best people in the field. For instance, volunteering at the King's Ridge veterinary clinic had reawaken my goals and my love for biology after grades had let me down, all because the people there were supportive, welcoming, respectful, and best of all, eager to teach me about the job and all the intricate details in science that goes into veterinary medicine. It's so important to have a support system, both in your personal and professional life, and it feels so good to have people that are both proud of you and are willing to help you.
What advice would you give young women interested in a career in STEM?
Don't let people dictate what you can and cannot tolerate. Don't let stress and failure pull you down. And don't let cultural norms stop you. Multiple people told me I wouldn't be able to handle the blood or grime that comes with the veterinary field or even simply dealing with animals. Now I am working my first paid job as a surgical assistant at the OVC. I struggled during my first years of university, having started off failing two courses in my first semester and unable to get the grasp of living alone. Now here I am getting high grades and living an independent adult life after growing in a sheltered childhood. I was told human medicine is more spiritually rewarding and I would be wasting my time working with animals, that a respectable young Muslim woman shouldn't be rolling in the dirt with dogs and horses and that my parents shouldn't be supporting this. Now I'm here, happier than ever to help the animals I work with reach their optimal health and ultimately helping lives that still matter as much as a person. You will grow, you will blossom, and you will take over your life. STEM may be tough, but remember that it is not to push you away, it's to welcome the best version of you.