Undergraduate Research Ambassador Piya Bajaj combines her passion for research with principles of kindness and positivity learned at an early age.
Street lights illuminate the footsteps of many residents in New Delhi, India—but it wasn’t always this way. Early efforts by UBC Okanagan Undergraduate Research Ambassador Piya Bajaj helped increase safety for women in New Delhi while also igniting a lifelong passion for research and helping others.
Growing up on the quieter streets of Mumbai, Piya noticed a culture shift after moving to New Delhi with her family at 11 years old. Transitioning to life in her new city meant adapting to a different culture and rules that would ensure her safety and security in the larger centre. “As a young girl, it was an initial shock to me being told not to leave the house after 5pm because it was unsafe,” Piya explains. “So that shaped a lot of community work I did.”
When Piya reminiscences about her childhood experiences, she points to lessons about the importance of helping others. Education was highly valued in her family, but an equal emphasis was placed on kindness and generosity. “My mother and grandmother were always very involved in community service and teaching underprivileged children back home,” shares the third-year Bachelor of Arts student. “When I continued with my school career, one thing I knew I wanted for sure was to help people and work with them.”
These experiences served as an inspiration for Piya to be a force for change and a strong advocate for women’s safety. She joined the Centre for Active Citizenship at her school, where she was part of both the women’s safety and road safety teams. Piya and her classmates set forth on a research project that saw them survey more than 200 women in busy metropolitan areas over five hours to learn more about how safe they felt in these areas. The researchers learned that women felt most unsafe where there were fewer street lights, so, armed with this information, Piya and her team made it their goal to make streetlights a reality.
Over the next few months, the group advocated passionately to the municipal government until their mission was a success. “This was my entry into the world of research. I collected data, analyzed it and took action to get those lights installed. Working on this project as a young child shaped my passion for international relations and research.”
Piya came to UBC Okanagan with the continued desire to support and help others while pursuing her own education—and she has embraced every opportunity to do so. From serving as an Orientation Leader and Student Connector to working in the Student Experience Office and volunteering for Amnesty International UBCO, Piya found joy in helping and encouraging others. “Wherever I go, I try to do good to people. I try to carry that in my personal life and my professional life to make a positive impact in the world.”
When Piya first came across the Undergraduate Research Ambassador program, she saw an exciting opportunity to combine her passion for research with her strong desire to help her classmates. UBC Okanagan’s Undergraduate Research Ambassadors assist students to navigate the many opportunities available to undergraduate students to get involved in research, perfectly fitting. “Research is the way forward. Unless we dive into things we don’t know about, the world won’t change,” she says. “As human beings, we all have a desire to know something about the world we live in.”
As an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, a role she shared with two other students, Piya was excited to work with students from a variety of different fields and backgrounds. Bringing her love of research into her own work, Piya currently serves as a directed studies student in Psychology as well as an Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Faculty of Management. These personal experiences gave Piya a deeper understanding of the challenges her fellow students faced in research and allowed her to grow in her role as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. “Every experience has been uniquely beautiful,” she shares. “Every conversation is different, every person is different. Everybody is looking for different things.”
One of her favourite memories at UBC Okanagan was moderating an event hosted by the Undergraduate Research Ambassadors—called Undergraduate Experiences in Research—that brought together students from different facilities to share their experiences and ask questions.
In the future, Piya sees herself in a field where she can continue to help people develop and grow. After graduating, she plans to spend time growing her career before bringing her lived experiences to further education in Psychology or Data Analytics. She encourages fellow students to look for their passion and take advantage of opportunities: “The world is so big, and there’s so much that humanity has left to do. Look around yourself and see what inspires you.”