UT organization Fika strives to amplify nontraditional science career paths

Jessica Garcia, Life & Arts Reporter

At an industry panel last semester, Sabrina Lu and Sydney Suthar shared a eureka moment. Listening to UT alumni discuss how they use their science degrees unconventionally, Lu and Suthar felt inspired to share that same message through a medium of their own — an all-new student organization called Fika.

Since starting in spring 2022, Lu, a neuroscience sophomore and Fika co-founder, said the organization strives to amplify opportunities for nontraditional science career paths and foster a community where students can discuss their future career and education goals. While Fika only has three current members, the group has plans for a strong launch and open recruitment in fall 2022.

“We want to give our peers an opportunity to identify the choices they have,” Lu said. “Whether (Fika) helps them confirm they want to go to medical school or graduate school, or it helps people find a different career they’re really passionate about.”

Fika members are in the process of building the organization by posting infographics on Instagram and conducting interviews with College of Natural Sciences alumni who pursued careers such as a manufacturer of IV bags, lawyer and UT academic advisor. Lu said Fika plans to share these interviews on Instagram in the coming weeks to offer advice to students and attract members to the organization this fall.

“There are people who decided not to go to medical school or graduate school and are still very successful in their own right,” Lu said. “Hopefully, they can encourage our peers to be more confident that there are other options for us out there.”

The organization takes its name from the Swedish word “fika,” which refers to a break from activity where people drink coffee and eat cake to momentarily unwind from their lives. Sally Giorgberidze, a neuroscience sophomore and Fika member, said the name embodies the organization’s goal to help students take a moment to consider their post-college plans and decide for themselves what best suits their interests.

“We want to make a space for people to calm down, relax, metaphorically drink a cup of coffee and think about what else they can do that may not have been presented to them earlier on,” Giorgberidze said.

Suthar, co-founder of Fika and mathematics and economics sophomore, said she feels pressured to graduate on time and follow specific career steps. Suthar said she looks forward to being involved in a vibrant organization where she can bond with people who have interest in other science-based work.

“I’m playing with different ideas like graduate or law school, and I haven’t settled on one,” Suthar said. “I have this pressure to choose before the clock runs out, and I think being in an environment like (Fika) would be beneficial.”

Through Fika, Lu said members hope to create a safe space for students to embrace the uncertainty they may experience during and after college and use it to reflect on their life.

“It’s about being present, and part of that is taking a couple of seconds to reevaluate, ‘Why am I pre-med?’” Lu said. “That’s what we want Fika to be: an opportunity for people to think about what they’re doing.”