Hebah Hussaina is an MSc student in UBC’s Women+ and Children’s Health Sciences Program, supervised by HELP Director, Dr. Mariana Brussoni. On June 20th, she will host Science Worlds’s event, An Evening with Bill Nye, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.
“It’s pretty surreal,” says Hussaina, “I remember when I was in elementary school, our teacher would roll in a TV on this big stand into our classroom, and right then we knew we’d get to watch Bill Nye the Science Guy. Our entire class would be singing along to his theme song, chanting ‘Bill! Bill! Bill!’ — it’s a very distinct memory for me.”
So how did this come to be? As a previous program coordinator for Science World, Hussaina’s manager approached her during the pandemic and asked her if she would be interested in hosting some virtual events for their Girls and STEAM series — a program that encourages young girls and women to pursue their scientific interests and explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM).
This virtual hosting gig evolved into larger in-person events, and eventually, Hussaina’s name was mentioned while discussing a potential host for An Evening with Bill Nye, something she says she is grateful for. “[Bill Nye] was one of the reasons why I was so interested in and drawn towards exploring science,” she says.
“I remember he would always encourage curiosity and to ask the question, ‘why?’. As a kid, I was so annoying,” she laughs. “I would ask ‘why?’ about everything, to everybody. My parents were always so kind, answering my questions, but I was always so relentless with the whys. Bill Nye was so formative for me during my younger years, I’ve kept asking ‘why?’ and that is something I have carried through, even into my adulthood.”
Hussaina graduated from UBC’s Integrated Sciences program in 2021, having studied Neurobiology, Psychology, and Public Health with a minor in Anthropology. She is passionate about supporting healthy child development and communities, and her research interests lie in the intersection of pediatric mental health as well as outdoor and risky play, especially through the lens of health promotion initiatives and knowledge translation.
When asked about her passion for Girls and STEAM, Hussaina notes “there are a lot of barriers, especially for underrepresented populations, in science. I hope that my presence on these stages can show kids that scientists are people other than an old, frumpy guy in lab coat with a grumpy face all of the time.”
She adds that “Bill Nye was kind of that for me when I was a kid — he made science so accessible, fun, and less traditional. Seeing someone be so positive and enthusiastic about science was transformational.”
Hussaina will not only introduce Nye at the start of the event on June 20, she will also host a Q&A period towards the end and facilitate a conversation with Nye and audience members.
“All in all, I hope that being a part of these events will lead to more kids feeling like science is for everybody, and not just for a certain group,” she says. “Inclusivity in this space is so important. I feel like this is a really, really great opportunity and I’m excited to hopefully convey that passion on stage.”