Friends, Leaders, and Winners at the 2014 Undergraduate Research Fair

Aaron Clarke and Mohamed Sheksalah met on a basketball court in their first year at York five years ago and didn’t run into each other again until this past summer as YU START leaders. This year they've been thrown together through their mutual extracurriculars and classes, especially in Kinesiology & Health Science professor Mazen Hamadeh’s “Nutritional Aids in Sports and Exercise”, where they worked on the project that won them the Best Group Project at the 2014 annual Undergraduate Research Fair.

Aaron Clarke and Mohamed SheksalahAaron Clarke (left) and Mohamed Sheksalah (right)

They chose their topic, “Nitric Oxide: The Next Great Performance Enhancer?” through the sheer curiousity that drives them both to excel within the university. “What was something nobody else was going to do, and I knew nothing about?” explained Mohamed about how they came to their topic.

Both students cite Dr. Hamadeh as the clear-cut inspiration for their participation in the research fair, and as one of their most influential mentors at York. “In Mazen’s class you learn how to swim because you’re thrown in the water. You would go to speak with him feeling completely overwhelmed, and leave feeling like everything is manageable,” says Aaron.

“He’s the only professor I’ll remember 5 years from now. I'm always telling my parents about him because he makes me want to do better. He never told us the answer when we were coming to him for support [during this process], but always asked questions, always pushed us to find the answer,” says Mohamed.

Mohamed is a 5th year Kinesiology & Health Science student who has been part of the Faculty of Health Student Caucus (FHSC) for the past three years, and spent two years as an executive on the committee, currently as the Vice-Chair. He’s also part of Peer Health Education as a team lead for the Active Living group, and a student health ambassador. He’s in the Athletic Therapy stream, and is looking to complete a Master’s in Nutrition or Physiotherapy after his undergraduate degree.

Aaron has been more academically involved at York since his 3rd year, including being an Academic Resource Advisor and an Academic Orientation Team Lead at Stong College, and more recently, a Supplemental Instructor for Introductory Statistics. “You go to class, get confused, and then you come to me,” says Aaron, who has helped support the learning of as many as 60 statistics students at a time. He was also a high-jumper for the Track and Field Varsity team, and an assistant at various rehabilitation and physiotherapy clinics outside of York. He is currently waiting to hear back from schools to pursue a Master’s in Physiotherapy.

“I think we were both surprised how we managed to work around each other’s crammed schedules for this,” admits Aaron.

“Mazen said, after we had bugged him for about the sixth time about our written critique, that we work off of each other, not against. When someone messes up, it’s not because the other person pushes you down. We worked really well together,” says Mohamed.

“We had the most organized Dropbox I’ve ever seen,” replied Aaron.