Passion for Science Rewarded with Rhodes Scholarship

by Diane Kunec

Everything Melissa Bailey does, she does with passion. Whether she’s isolating mouse neurons for her NSERC summer research project on obesity with Dr. Mark Fry, hanging from a trapeze doing aerial dance with the Momentum Aerial and Acrobatic Troup, or talking with high school students about her great work experiences through the Science Co-op Program, her passion for life and science shows.

Melissa Bailey first learned about Co-op in her third year of science through her lab partner. She admired his confidence and precision at the bench. When she listened to him talk about the program, and realized through Co-op he had been able to work with Ebola virus in a federal laboratory before she had even held a pipette, she wanted in.

After completing her first Co-op work term doing research on prion diseases in the same federal laboratory, she was one of ten international students chosen for a summer studentship at the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology in Freiburg, Germany. Melissa was so determined to work in Dr. Verdon Taylor’s lab at the Centre that she was willing “to sleep in the lab if I have to.” Dr. Taylor rewarded her determination by providing living accommodations right above the lab. She spent the summer doing neural stem cell research and got hooked on developmental biology.

“My experience in the Co-op Program has been very positive. I have thrived in the Program, gaining valuable work experience both at home and abroad, doing cutting-edge research and establishing contacts both in and out of the lab. Co-op has helped me realize the full potential of my science undergraduate degree, and I have learned not just the skills I need to succeed, but how to apply these skills.”

Melissa also shares her passion for science with youth through the Let’s Talk Science partnership program at the University of Manitoba. She began as a volunteer presenter and is now one of the program coordinators, helping young students get excited about science.

As one of the newly named Rhodes Scholars, she wants to complete a Master’s in Clinical Medicine, with a focus on developmental and stem cell biology, followed by a Ph.D. “To me, science is not just a degree. Science has political, social, economic, environmental, cultural and ethical implications beyond the lab. I see the Rhodes Scholarship as an opportunity to immerse myself in a dynamic learning environment with people who share a curiosity about the world.”

Her dream is to do research and be a consultant for the World Health Organization on stem cell therapy and cloning, eventually returning to Winnipeg as a professor. “I want to get involved in the dialogue about stem cells, and promote science education to help people develop critical thinking skills and make informed decisions.”


The Rhodes Scholarship is a postgraduate award supporting exceptional students at the University of Oxford in England.  Established in the will of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, the Rhodes is the oldest and perhaps the most prestigious international scholarship program in the world. 


Academics are important, but… It's just as important to challenge yourself physically, creatively and intellectually. Be involved in the greater community; work, volunteer, share your love for science/history/art etc., and travel.

Ask questions & listen to what people have to say. Never be afraid to ask questions, but make sure you listen to the responses. Also, learn how to take criticism and learn from your mistakes.

Think outside the box. Go against the norm. At university it is very easy to become comfortable and fall into the same pattern as everyone else. Remember, an undergrad is only 3-4 years of your life so make the most out of it, and take courses that will challenge and inspire you. In the end, they will only make you a better student.  
Bailey: Co-op Award