Ashley Cooper

25 | Height: 5’9″
Hometown: Ottawa, ON

Ashley grew up in the small town of Amherstview, Ontario, right outside of Kingston. Coming from a fun loving and encouraging family has certainly influenced her. Her parents and brother have been incredibly supportive of any and all her endeavors.

In her youth she was taught the importance of being active, resulting in her coaching and reffing soccer for several years. She believes that organized activities and sports are essential for youth to learn about setting goals, team unity, commitment, patience, and persistence.

Countless hours of watching National Geographic and fishing with her father sparked curiosity and inspired her to pursue a career in science. Ashley’s passion for science continued into university, where she attended the University of Ottawa on an entrance scholarship.

She holds two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in Biomedical Science and the other in Biology, as well as a minor in Criminology. She is currently working towards the completion of a Master of Science degree in Microbiology.

Her MSc has provided her the opportunity to work with a variety of organisms and present at numerous conferences, even being honored with awards for her research. She plans to continue her education and pursue a PhD, ideally investigating oncolytic viral therapy.

Her goal is to one day manage her own lab while simultaneously teaching as a university professor.

From weekdays at the lab bench to weekends working at The Heart and Crown pub, she still manages to find time to watch Sci-fi movies, practice guitar, bake a mountain of cookies, and work all of those sweets off playing soccer, volleyball, basketball and participating in Muay Thai classes. She prides herself in being a well-rounded individual and excels in any task she partakes.

Ashley strives to be a compassionate and generous person helping others in any way they require. She is determined to accomplish and succeed achieving the objectives she has set for herself. She believes success is defined on an individual basis and that what is important is that you set goals and pursue your dreams.

“If you are afraid to be wrong, you will never learn anything new” – Einstein

Sponsored by: The Heart and Crown Irish Pub, Makeup Muse, UMTBC, Richard Hair Stylist, RD Cooper Appraisals, Family and Friends.

Languages spoken fluently (please include your native language if English is not your native language).


What are your interests and what do you enjoy doing the most?

I enjoy doing a variety of things. I love baking cookies and themed cakes for my friends and family. I try to stay active, and pick up the guitar every chance I get! Most of all I enjoy catching up and spending time with friends and family, and meeting new people. Being a bartender has allowed me to interact with a variety of people and hear some amazing stories.

List any special training you have had (music, art, drama, dance, etc.)

I attended dance classes (jazz and ballet) for 10 years, am CPR/AED and WHMIS certified. I used to play the flute, can play guitar and sing.

In what sports, if any, have you participated?

I play all sports and have been on numerous teams. Throughout highschool I was a member of the soccer, volleyball, and basketball teams, some of which made it to provincial championships. Earlier in life I played OBA, baseball, enjoyed swimming, track and field, and flag football. Currently I organize a volleyball team for HOPE beach every year, participate in intramurals and on soccer teams.

Name one person, other than your parents, who has had the most influence on your life. Why? 

My thesis supervisor Dr. Catherine Carillo has had the largest influence on my life. She brings energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to all of her activities. She is not only a mother of four young boys, but also one of the most intelligent and well-liked scientists I have ever met. She a fantastic mother and friend, has incredible interdisciplinary knowledge, and is always thinking of new tasks and experiments to undertake. She is someone you can rely on, is always willing to lend a hand or an ear if needed, and has a fantastic sense of humor. Her combination of perseverance, creativity, and compassion make her one of the most interesting and hard working women I have ever met. I aspire to accomplish what she has in life. It is easy to love what you do when your boss (supervisor) brings such joy and intrigue to your environment.

What is your proudest personal accomplishment (other than participating in this pageant)?

I have been extremely fortunate in having many opportunities in life. I have been honored with various awards for presentation and poster contests based on my research. Having played for various sports teams has given me the chance to compete in tournaments. Moreover, I’d say my proudest accomplishment thus far was being accepted into a Master’s program in the field I desired to be in (Microbiology). This was a long road requiring completion of a second undergraduate after the realization that I had not performed to my highest potential previously. It was a humbling experience, and has only made me a more ambitious, hard working individual. Although it would have saved some time to have applied myself more in the first degree, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and would not have acquired some of the connections and knowledge I now hold.

What is the most interesting or unique thing that has ever happened to you and/or what is the most interesting thing about you?

I once met Billy Idol at the pub, he is an amazing person.

I have never broken any bone in my body, though I have sprained each finger at least once rebounding or blocking.

What is your career ambition and what are you doing or plan to do to accomplish that goal?

I have had the misfortune of watching various friends and family members afflicted with cancer, and unfortunately not all conquered their illness. Currently the field of oncolytic viral therapy (fighting cancer using viruses as vectors to kill/treat tumors, etc) has been growing in popularity. I am fascinated by this technology, and hope to be investigating in this field. I would like to complete a PhD in microbiology and command my own research laboratory. I am near completion of an MSc in microbiology, and have met with various scientists at conferences and universities. After this competition I plan to learn more about recent work in viral therapy and volunteer in a lab to understand the techniques and brainstorm possible research ideas.

What would be your “dream job” in life?

To one day have and run my own lab (with unlimited funding and graduate students to assist me). To be able to conduct my own research, collaborate with other brilliant minds, and hopefully make an important discovery. It would be fantastic if I were able to write and play music also! I’m still working on bringing my talent up to that level.

Are you currently a student?


If yes, where?

University of Ottawa

Area of study:

Currently completing a MSc in Microbiology

Are you currently employed?


If yes, what is your occupation?

I am server/bartender at the Heart and Crown Pub as well as a research assistant in a laboratory at Health Canada.

Describe where you were raised and what your childhood was like.  

My younger brother and I were raised in the small town of Amherstview, Ontario, right outside of Kingston. It is a gorgeous town right on the Lake Ontario. Summers were spent outdoors biking, at the soccer field and in Ganonoque at our grandparents’ farm and cottage boating, tubing and cliff jumping. Every winter my father and our neighbor would create an ice-rink in the park across the street where we learned to skate. They often made time to take us ice fishing and tobogganing. Although I was not a very popular child early on I managed to make some friends and did not seem to notice that I was considered strange, most likely because I spent so much time thinking. Our parents tried their very best to give us constant encouragement and support at all of our events (sporting, musical, and the occasional math competition). This meant a lot of traveling to dance classes, practices, and tournaments. I am extremely grateful for all they have done. Their impact has molded me into the respectful, confident, intelligent, and self-proclaimed hilarious, person I am today.

List any interesting or unusual jobs you may have had. 

Soccer Referee

Every athlete should have to ref their sport at least once, it is no easy task, and you learn an appreciation for the patience, observational skills and attention to detail it requires.

List any volunteering you have done.

I was a soccer coach for 4 years (ages 7 to 12) in my home town. I also recently volunteered at Fight for a Cure and was a model at Fashion for a Cure; both are events that raised money and awareness for cancer research.

What is your most unusual talent?

I tend to make a lot of voice impressions. I’m fairly certain they aren’t very good, but people laugh so I continue to do it (occasionally I don’t even realize it). I sometimes wonder if I am slightly ambidextrous. Although this may be a result of the combination of years playing sports, pipetting, strumming the guitar, and bartending.

Where is the most interesting place you have been to? 

St. Maarten and Las Vegas were both amazing places I had the chance to travel to. I once attended a field course in Athabasca, Alberta, which was a beautiful small town surrounded by rolling hills and rivers. Learning about the wildlife and ecosystem in this small town was intriguing, the friendly people and gorgeous view made it an enjoyable trip.

An ambition of mine is to travel more, until that time I live vicariously through my friend who has travelled the world. Her stories of diving with great whites and hiking through Machu Picchu have only heightened my desire to explore the world.

What do you hope to be doing in ten years? 

In ten years I hope to have completed my PhD and a post-doctorate position at a University. Ideally, I will be operating my own lab that will have a multi-disciplinary scope working with various microorganisms, specifically viruses (as mentioned previously).

In ten years time I would also like to have started a family. I am determined to have maintained the relationships I currently have and build new and exciting relationships with people I will meet. I will definitely be a loving, supportive, gracious, and kind mother, friend and wife to whomever may enter my life.