Career paths are rarely straight and narrow. Courses, volunteering, internships, and jobs can all expose you to new opportunities. As a student, researcher, and intern, Calvin Won knows this first hand. And he is only just finishing his undergraduate degree.
With good grades in high school biology, Calvin entered the University of Toronto as a life sciences student in cell systems biology and health and disease. But the rote memorization, large classes, and constant focus on medical school by his classmates had him questioning whether he could find a place in the life sciences.
It was while talking to a researcher in the Starbucks line at St. Michael’s Hospital that he stumbled into the word of nutrition research. Now, over three years later, Calvin still volunteers at the hospital. He works with a team studying an alternative healthcare delivery model to improve medical care access for low-income families.
“There was this whole a different kind of science that I didn’t realize existed.”
While Calvin was only just discovering a new side of science, he had grown up in a family business. His parents and grandparents own and run a national photography printing business. Growing up, the warehouses and factory floor were his playground. He got a feel for the business as a product development intern, speaking with customers and working with suppliers to release new products.
“I’ve always wanted to combine my experience with healthcare research and the entrepreneurial exposure from my family to find meaning at the intersection of healthcare and business.”
This combination of business experience and passion for health research has been strengthened this year through his work as a startup intern for the Impact Centre resident company MultiMension. The company, which specializes in healthcare and life sciences communications and knowledge translation, created an app called Nuttri to help new parents wean their babies to solid food. Parents can use the app to track which foods can be introduced at different ages, find nutrient information for various foods, and read tips on how to prepare and serve food for babies.
Since September, Calvin has been working with company founder Julie Lee and a team of other interns to write articles that promote the app. Their content covers parenting and baby food trends and are based on the latest research in pediatric nutrition. In addition to literature searches and writing, Calvin has been reaching out to leading nutritionists and pediatricians to gather feedback on the app.
“I have learned I enjoy connecting with people and experts from different backgrounds.”
One of the key lessons that he has taken away from this experience is the amount of passion and dedication that it takes to start a new business. He also learned that while he is not interested in founding a company himself, he would like to help other companies through consulting. To help prepare for working at a top consulting firm, he a decided to continue his education with a Master’s program at U of T.
“This experience made me think about what I wanted to do going forward. This forced me to reach out and network with people, realize a goal and what I need to get there.”
Calvin didn’t know where he would end up when he started at the University of Toronto. But a winding path of courses, research opportunities, and a startup internship has helped him find a path forward.