Q: What is your name and role at Okanagan College?
A: Cameron Egan, College Professor in the Department of Biology
Q: What did you take at OC/OUC? When did you graduate? What campus did you attend?
A: I was enrolled in the Associate of Science program at the Vernon campus 2003-2005. This was during the transition years between OUC and OC.
Q: Why did you choose your program at OC?
A: Biology always fascinated me as a high school student. When starting my post-secondary education, I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career yet, but I knew that it would involve the biological sciences in some capacity.
Q: When did you know you had found your discipline?
A: In second year at OC I discovered my love for ecology. I was fortunate to have Laurie Donovan as a professor at Vernon campus. His passion about the subject and enthusiastic teaching style really got me hooked.
I was also really drawn to ecology as it’s a combination of “big picture” thinking and reductionist approaches to better understand the natural world. At that point, again I didn’t know what my career would be, but now I knew that it would now involve ecology!
After OC, the discipline has provided me with a wealth of experiences (which continue to grow). I earned a BSc and PhD from UBC Okanagan, and then worked at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa as a postdoctoral researcher. Experiences to date that stand out for me include: sampling plants and microbes in the mountains of Montana, working in the lab using molecular and culturing techniques to examine microbial diversity, working as a restoration ecologist and growing native plants for ecological restoration projects throughout the Okanagan, working in the Hawaiian archipelago examining the roles microbes can have to help remediate human-caused damages to ecosystems, and meeting and exchanging ideas with scientists from around the world from diverse backgrounds with diverse perspectives.
Q: What was one of your most meaningful memories during your time as a student at OC?
A: Two things come to mind: the great professors and the cohort of students who I went through the program with. Because of the small class sizes, I really got to know both my classmates and professors. This really helped me with the social aspect of learning and keeping me engaged in my courses. I’m still in contact with many of my former OC classmates to this day and am lucky enough to call some of my former professors' colleagues.
Q: What advice would you pass on to current/future students?
A: Try and ignore grades as the goal for your class (easier said than done). Rather, try to approach your learning with the goal to comprehend and be continually curious. If your goal is focused on these aspects of learning, rather than achieving a number, good grades will follow!
Also try and make connections with your professors. We all love to teach and are here to help guide you. We can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as a learner and help you develop strategies to be successful in your courses. We can also help you develop a meaningful trajectory in your post-secondary education. I know personally I feel invested in each one of my students, and fully appreciate that each has their own unique interests and abilities.
Q: Why did you choose to work at Okanagan College?
A: Fond memories from my own time at the college, small class sizes that help me engage my students and really get to know them, proximity to many of the ecosystems that I grew up exploring, and the ability to impart my passion about ecology and plants to the next generation of ecologists and botanists.
Q: What do you like most about the work you do?
A: Teaching is my passion. Throughout my academic career I have continually found myself drawn to teaching and mentoring the next generation of scientists. Being a biology educator is also quite unique and provides a diversity of opportunities. To be successful you not only need a strong foundation in theoretical knowledge, but you also need technical skills/abilities to help students in labs, and you also get to be creative, mostly when designing learning and teaching activities to help reinforce the material.
Beyond my own personal enjoyment, I love watching my students develop from first year and beyond. My goal when teaching is to inspire students about the natural world, while arming them with the knowledge, skills, and passion to build meaningful careers and make positive contributions to society. It’s always great hearing updates from students as the leave and start pursuing further studies or join the workforce.
Q: Favourite teaching experience?
A: Hard to pin down a single experience, but generally my favourite teaching days are when I can get my students outside “in the field” (as we call it in ecology). It’s great to see them doing hands-on learning, while thinking critically about theory we are learning about in the classroom. I try to incorporate those activities into my ecology and vascular plant courses as much as I can.
Q: Why do you think people should enter the Biology field?
A: As a student, biology provides a strong foundation to help prepare you for a working across wide spectrum of careers. You can develop a pathway to work environmental biological fields such as ecology and conservation to biomedical careers in medicine, and everything in-between. The possibilities with a biology degree are potentially limitless.
Beyond preparing you for a meaningful career, taking courses in biology prepares you to be an informed global citizen. As the world continues to grapple with the ongoing Sars-CoV-2 pandemic, we have concurrently experienced multiple ecological disasters. These events have unequivocal links to anthropogenic changes to the Earth’s climate and loss in biodiversity. As a researcher and educator in the field of ecology, I feel as though we are in an imperative time. The biodiversity and climate crisis, along with coinciding environmental issues are going to require a coming generation of scientists, policymakers, business leaders, and general population that has a strong understanding of, and appreciation for, the biological systems we rely on.
Q: If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently?
A: Not a thing. I’ve been really fortunate in my career thus far!
Q: Where are you the happiest?
A: Anytime I’m with my family. I have two young children (and a third on the way), and as a family we love to get outside and take advantage of everything the Okanagan has to offer, skiing, biking, swimming, hiking we do it all!
Department of Biology
Discover the living world around you in studies focusing on all levels of biology, from molecules to organisms to ecosystems – and everything in between.
Associate of Science
The Associate of Science provides an easy transfer option for upper-level university programs, as well as a stand-alone credential. Complete the two years and 60 credits of specific requirements for the Associate of Science Degree, and you could transfer directly to third year of study at any B.C. university.