Portrait of Kahlan Tan
First-year student Kahlan Tan plans to pursue Chemistry and Creative Writing.
Thursday, March 22 - 2018
Sara Weales

Kahlan is in first-year, so she doesn’t need to decide her program yet, but she’s got an idea what she wants to pursue. She’s always been good at science, particularly Chemistry, though she chose U of T Scarborough for the Creative Writing program.

“Chemistry is like the mystery of the unknown, it’s like magic.” She explains that while magicians can never reveal their secrets, chemistry is like getting to explore the secret behind the magic of chemical reactions.

While some students with two distinct interests may want to find ways to combine them, Kahlan likes to keep them separate. She says studying science is hard work and can be stressful, and creative writing is her retreat, a break from the lab work. She likes this balance. “I pursue science because it’s a practical decision, pursuing Creative Writing was a more emotional decision.”

“I pursue science because it’s a practical decision, pursuing Creative Writing was a more emotional decision.”

She plans on keeping them separate once she graduates too. She sees herself working in a lab “I may go into forensics or into a hospital, or makeup companies have chemists making formulas, I'd like that.” She believes writing will remain a hobby, “Maybe on the side I’ll publish a book.”

So far, she’s just enjoying her first-year experiences in both areas. Through Introduction to Creative Writing, she’s been able to work on writing in ways she never got to in high school. In her first chemistry class, they had a fun experiment where they created putty. Outside the classroom, she joined the creative writing group COW, which she finds helps her combat writer’s block.

She already sees how her skills in each area help her in the other: she notices her creative writing work is helping her write better lab reports. On the flip side, she thinks she brings a really rational perspective to her creative writing.

When asked if she writes stories about science themes or scientists, she laughed “no I actually can’t stand Sci-Fi.”


March is “pick your program” month on campus. If you could use guidance in deciding your program, the Academic Advising & Career Centre department has appointments, workshops, and online resources to help. Visit uoft.me/choosing to find out more.