Dr. Keisean Stevenson, chemistry instructor

PROFile: Swimming through chemistry

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Dr. Keisean Stevenson, a chemistry instructor at the University of Winnipeg, has a deep-rooted connection to the Caribbean, where he spent his formative years in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Growing up surrounded by the ocean, Stevenson says one of his fondest memories is learning to swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. “I always looked forward to going to the beach. It was really pleasant for me, and when I finally learned to swim successfully, it was a really happy feeling,” they say.

His voyage from the idyllic shores of Saint Vincent to the academic halls of Winnipeg was marked by a love for chemistry that emerged gradually. Initially drawn to the field of medicine, Stevenson’s interest shifted toward chemistry during his high- school years.

“As I continued my studies, particularly around the equivalent of Grade 11, I realized that my fondness for biology wasn’t very strong. But with chemistry, it was making a lot of sense to me,” they say. “I found the colours in chemistry beautiful. I found experimentation in chemistry fun.”

This newfound love led Stevenson to pursue higher education abroad, eventually landing him in Canada. Transitioning to life in Canada as an immigrant presented its challenges, but Stevenson says he found solace in his independence and the opportunity for self-discovery.

“It’s been difficult. It’s been great. It’s been a mixed bag of feelings,” they say. “But coming to Canada as an immigrant, also on my own, was very important to me. Once my studies were over, I was able to support myself doing something I loved, in a place where I felt welcome.”

Now settled in Winnipeg, Stevenson finds fulfillment in his role as a chemistry instructor, drawing inspiration from the teachers who shaped his academic path. “The teachers I had tended to be able to meet students where they were. They inspired my own teaching today,” they say.

Beyond academia, Stevenson enjoys indulging in his hobbies, from playing video games to singing and exploring his culinary skills with dishes inspired by his travels.

“I like experimenting with dishes. One of my favorite dishes I’ve prepared was squid-ink pasta with seafood, which I first tried when I was at a conference in Italy back in graduate school,” they say.

What was your worst grade in university?

“It was a C-plus in the second semester of physics in my first year.”

If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“It’s dal makhani, a creamy lentil dish from the Punjab region that’s spicy, slow-simmered lentils with ginger and a whole bunch of different spices. Normally when I get it, it’s been cooking for 24 hours. If I could eat it every day, I would.”

What was your favorite toy growing up?

“I was always into video games. For one of my birthdays, my mom got me a Game Boy Advance system, which was like my first handheld video-game system.”

Who has been the greatest influence in your life?

“My teachers who impacted my learning. Those who encouraged me to try, those who inspired me in the classroom. I can’t name just one of them. But any teacher who supported and encouraged me through tough times in my studies.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 15, 2024)

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