Melissa Carmen Cheung is on a mission to make science cool. “When I walk down the street, everything from how trees grow to how a vehicle moves fascinates me,” she says. “I want to share my excitement with others because if you give people good context, you can get them excited and involved in everyday life.”
As a PhD candidate set to convocate in November, Melissa's everyday life involves plenty of time in the lab; her research at Sunnybrook focuses on targeted cancer therapies that pinpoint the disease and leave healthy cells untouched. It’s a niche she hopes will one day improve a patient’s quality of life and overall survival rates.
But she knows science isn’t always something people can relate to. That’s why she recently started her own Sunnybrook blog, Real Research, Real Simple. It explores many curious concepts, like genetically-modified glow-in-the-dark animals and why researchers are turning the tables and giving tobacco plants cancer.
Emanating from Melissa’s snappy write-ups is her unbridled enthusiasm for the world around her. As part of her ambition to be involved in science communications, she’s also taken this talent on the road. As a volunteer with the national non-profit Let’s Talk Science, she travels to schools to educate kids about fun science concepts from DNA to how gravity works.
“Many people think that to understand science, you have to understand rocket science,” she explains. “They don’t realize that even simple things like making your daily cup of tea are also relevant. Appreciating this helps you see the world in a new perspective.” – Monica Matys
FOCUSED ON THE DETAILS
Walk through Sunnybrook’s bustling main entrance and you’re sure to catch a glimpse of optician Dexter Telenko hard at work in his storefront. That’s because he swapped the back-room operation typical of most optical store layouts with a design that brought the workshop front and centre when he built his optical shop at Sunnybrook 15 years ago.
The concept encourages curiosity and regular drop-ins from passersby. But it’s
Dexter’s devotion to craftsmanship that has customers regularly popping their heads in just to say: “Thank you.”
The praise and appreciation are well deserved. Dexter’s Optical caters to patients with some of the most difficult prescriptions in the province.
“I have the capability to build really difficult stuff,” Dexter says. “We’ll handle prescriptions from plus 30 to minus 30 and astigmatism and prism values that are just crazy. We see a lot of broken people. There are few operations doing this kind of work.”
Telenko’s attraction to seeing the world through a different lens sparked in high school. Growing up in what he calls the “tough little town north of Sudbury,” he escaped boredom by building telescopes in his backyard. Eventually, he had to face the age-old decision of what to do for the rest of his life. Not wanting to spend his career in an isolated observatory, he set out on his current path.
“I like working with people and what I do is fun. If you’re going to do something, hell, do it! Dig in!”
Dexter approaches each patient with the skill of a custom tailor. He says eyewear has to be high quality, perfectly fit, used for the right purpose and fairly priced. The devil is in the details and so are happy customers. That’s why most are repeat customers.
On occasion, Dexter has had to rearrange his shop to accommodate a patient’s bed visit in the store. And if hospitalized patients can’t come down to see Dexter, he’ll go to them. “I see people with severe disfigurement, missing limbs and eyes that don’t function normally. A big part of my job is being compassionate, but also having some backbone because the last thing people want is sympathy. They need somebody who will get things done,” he says.
“I get a great level of satisfaction out of doing what is generally not easy to do. Helping people, tackling the difficult work and doing it well. There’s really nothing better.” – Monica Matys
Follow us on Twitter: