uOttawa student harping on science

Posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2015

By Brandon Gillet

Ever wondered what music and science have in common? The University of Ottawa’s newest star student, Sarah Veber, who came all the way from Newfoundland to take the combined bachelor of music and science, certainly has.

Veber is studying harp performance and biochemistry, with hopes of finding some way to combine her knowledge of music with scientific research as well as some grad study options once she completes the five-year program.

“My interest was in connecting science and music,” says Veber. To do so, Veber worked on a project that focused on a disorder called amusia, through the Faculty of Science’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship. Amusia can be summed up as a difficulty processing pitch, and is sometimes referred to as “tone deafness.” The symptoms may prevent a person from reading, performing or even listening to music.

The Undergraduate Research Scholarship put Veber in a research lab this past summer with physics professor Andre Longtin. Longtin was looking at amusia from a neuro-science perspective and Veber wrote reports for him based on current research.

Veber was one of 30 students chosen for interviews for the Undergraduate Research Scholarship, who were then narrowed down to 16. Applicants had to be recommended by a science professor, submit a 250-word text detailing their passion for science and have a minimum admission average of 90%.

The Undergraduate Research Scholarship is actually the second significant scholarship Veber’s drive and determination has earned her. While in her last year of high school, she was sponsored for the $100,000 Loran Award, given for character, service and leadership. After an eight-month wait, she learned that she was chosen as one of 30 students nationwide.

“It’s a merit scholarship for students right across the country, so it’s pretty special,” says Veber.

For three summers during her program, the Loran will place her in internships in the areas of public policy, enterprise and personal/community development. This will, unfortunately, limit other opportunities for summer lab work researching connections between music and science, which will remain the focus of her studies.

“The purpose of the summer program is to provide students with opportunities and some funding to broaden and explore career options and interests outside of a particular field of study that a traditional university program could not offer,” Veber explained.

The combined bachelor of music and science is one of uOttawa’s integrated programs allowing students to obtain degrees in two completely separate disciplines. It is the first of its kind in Canada, which is why Veber chose to come here.

“I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember,” says Veber. “It’s been such a huge part of my life.”

So how did she accomplish all this, and what’s next? Veber says she was a forward thinking, driven and self-motivated person in high school, though transitioning to university caused her to re-define her study habits. She will continue to find ways of connecting science and music.

“I’m interested in how music is involved in child development,” says Veber. “Especially children with disorders and how music therapy is involved.”

Soothing sounds of harp to put your colicky baby to sleep, anyone?

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