Kacper Niburski

Assistant News Editor


It was among these questionable times, where differences seem to take precedent over similarities, and commonalities are anything but common, that TEDxMcMasterU hosted the event “Bridges and Barriers” on March 17.

The McMaster conference included talks from 11 different speakers, whose careers varied as much as their speeches did. From numerous undergraduate students to a pediatric neurosurgeon at McMaster’s Children’s Hospital, the speakers addressed the challenges and opportunities inherent in attempting to progress in both an academic context and the surrounding world.

Jeanette Eby, the coordinator of McMaster’s Discovery Program, began the event by reminding the audience of their connection to Hamilton and the broader community. Drawing upon the lessons learned in the Program, she explained that knowledge is often contained. Higher institutions, while serving to spread the accumulation of knowledge, tend to be hindered by various obstacles. But by engaging with students in an open forum, whether young or old, able or disabled, knowledge is expanded upon in an entirely new perspective.

This idea was furthered by Shafeeq Rabbani, a first-year Engineering student at McMaster. As opposed to relating such a world to humans, however, Rabbani began with the question, “When will robots get here?” Unfortunately, his answer was somewhere between unsure and hesitant. While robots have had an increased role in industry, they have yet to make a noticeable private impact. Rabbani, though, hoped that his TED talk would not only inspire or simply disseminate an idea, but instead cultivate the passion to fuel the much-needed impetus in the field of robotics.

ts and Science student, similarly tackled the need for progress, but did so through the lens of complexity science. “Essentially, complexity science is the search for something behind everything,” she said. Discussing the shared yet hidden language latent in all things, Smrke hinted at a perpetually budding world that is connected but different, apart but the same. In order to discover it – and in turn bring about universal progression – Smrke stressed the need to “test, think and repeat.”

Giovanni Carranza-Hernandez and Alex Ramirez took a much different approach in an attempt to bridge barriers. Carranza-Hernandez, a McMaster graduate from the Department of Social Work, elaborated on the inescapable heteronormativity pervasive in a phallo-centric society, specifically how male expression leads to violence against women. Dividing the male psyche into a polarized spectrum, with hegemonic masculinity on one end and an alternative on the other, he expressed the need to recognize misogyny, and in doing so, challenge the cultural norms of gender stereotypes.

Ramirez, on the other hand, spoke about the unyielding spirit of activism among youth and the faulty perception of apathy in student culture. “I think young people are willing to bring changes to society, but need to find out what they want to do,” he said.

But this desire for change applies to all, not solely the youth. Speakers Shelia Singh, Gordon Guyatt, Cary Massarella and Christopher Aruffo were prime examples.Discussing the novel identification of a population of cancer stem cells that exclusively drive the formation of brain tumours, the need to have research evidence that guides clinical practice, the stigmatization of the transgender populous in medical treatment and the way to remove barriers to second-language speech, each speaker proposed a paradigm shift in their respective fields.

To close the day of inspiration, Oskar Niburski, in his second year of the Arts and Science Program, challenged the audience. Niburski preformed two poems that contested conventional creative thinking.

“As writers, we are trying to convey our thoughts and emotions to others,” he said. “But it is beyond conventional structure where creative writing flourishes. Now I am not telling you to start your next lap report with a haiku nor your essay with some wild equation, but I am urging you to realize that whenever you write, you are trying to communicate - and when you communicate, you do so to the world.”

And each year, TEDxMcMasterU brings the world’s ideas to McMaster in hopes that McMaster will one day bring the world its ideas.

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