Pollution awareness for a healthier future in Yellowknife

Muskaan Grewal (she/her), a fourth-year Public Health student, discusses her most recent co-op term working in the Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) under the Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada directorate.

What are your responsibilities in the workplace and what does your work entail?

"This term, I am helping the NCP collect proposal submissions for the 2024–25 year as well as compiling budgets, files and contact information. I help my team members plan workshops to present findings and research from the multiple proposal studies we fund and review meetings that analyze new submissions."

"There are two types of reviews. The first is technical, to review the scientific methodology with different experts in the field of contaminants, plastics, and pollution. The second is social-cultural, where members of indigenous communities in the regions where this work occurs come together to review if the proposals meet their wants, needs and expectations as a venue of collaboration and feedback. I was able to attend technical reviews virtually and a social-cultural review in person in Yellowknife."

What is your favourite part of the job?

Muskaan posing with the northern lights in the background

"The trip to Yellowknife is definitely the biggest highlight of this term. I was able to go to the North and have a completely new experience. I was there for a social-cultural meeting, so I was able to hear the testimonies of many different communities that I have read about all semester. Hearing the members talk about the proposals so passionately and about the importance of contaminants research on their communities, nature and health had me feeling so inspired. Further, I was able to meet the individuals I've been speaking to virtually; in-person experiences are so much more meaningful!"

"Outside of work, I was able to see the beauty in the North. I visited various attractions such as the Ice Road and Snow Castle as well as visit the Dettah community. I was also able to take a tour to see the Northern Lights, which has been on my bucket list for so long. They were beautiful and a truly unforgettable memory."

How do you think this experience has helped you develop yourself?

"I think all my co-op terms have helped me become more open, confident and outgoing! It is easy to shrink into your shell and not speak out when you are in large lecture halls, but in a co-op position, you are pushed to take initiative, express yourself and speak to new people. Being able to interact with different types of people is a skill that is transferrable beyond just the professional world. I can use it academically for group projects or socially, for making friends."

"This was further enhanced as two of my four co-op terms involved me moving away from home and experiencing a new city. This semester I moved away to Ottawa and one of my previous ones required me to move to Calgary. I knew no one in either of these cities and had to put myself out there to feel comfortable in new settings. This honed my conversational skills, as I had to be open at work to make a good impression and social outside of the workplace to make new friends, so that I could make the most of my time in a new place."

Muskaan posing in a mirror


How did you overcome challenges during this work term and/or previous ones?

"I was engaging in a hybrid mode of working this term, working two days in person and three remotely.  Sometimes that can feel isolating and make the workload seem overwhelming. I worked to overcome this by reminding myself that I have team members who are there to help me if I just reach out to them - they won't know I am struggling and need support unless I tell them I need help."

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