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Catalyzing Change: How I Became an Advocate for Science

Embarking on my PhD journey, I would have never guessed that a serendipitous encounter at the Canadian Society of Chemistry conference would shape the trajectory of my passion for science advocacy and policy. During a particularly enlightening panel discussion with Dr. Mona Nemer, my eyes were opened to the pivotal roles of science advocacy and policy in shaping the scientific landscape. Fast forward to today, where I have recently completed my PhD and I’m thrilled to join the dynamic team at Evidence for Democracy (E4D) as a Research Associate.

The focus of my PhD research was to understand the fundamental driving forces of catalytic reactions by utilizing computational chemistry and synthetic chemistry. Using the knowledge that I gained from studying the mechanisms of various reactions, I designed and synthesized novel catalysts to develop new catalytic processes.

Then came the COVID pandemic, right in the middle of my PhD studies. It became abundantly clear to me how crucial evidence-informed policy-making is to the health of our society. It also became glaringly evident that advocating for scientific research funding is not just a choice but a responsibility borne by the scientific community.

My advocacy journey took a personal turn when I realized the challenges faced by graduate students, the unsung heroes of academic research institutions. Graduate students are the backbones of academic research, yet many find it challenging to advocate for themselves due to the expectations set upon them to “publish or perish”. The challenging financial realities faced by my fellow graduate students led me to bring forward their concerns at the Department of Chemistry Council. After organizing with fellow graduate students, I successfully advocated to raise the minimum stipend in the Department of Chemistry at University of Manitoba. This pivotal moment kicked off a journey of advocating for graduate students and science funding with student groups across the country. Eventually, I found myself advocating for science funding during the 2021 federal election which led me to volunteer with E4D’s Vote Science campaign.

Beyond the laboratory, my commitment to diversity in STEM led me to co-found and subsequently preside over the University of Manitoba Working for Inclusivity in Chemical Sciences (UM-WIC) student group. UM-WIC actively contributed to fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in academia by organizing events and hosting speakers from diverse backgrounds. After working with multiple non-profit organizations in Winnipeg, I gained a wealth of knowledge about effective grassroots advocacy, impactful communication, and operation of non-profit organizations.

Most major problems, from climate change to curing diseases, require solutions from science.I am happy to be a part of E4D, an organization which has always advocated for the importance of scientific research and expertise in informing public policies. I remain committed to advocating for transparent, accountable, and evidence-informed policies as I start my new role here at E4D.

Join me on this exciting journey with Evidence for Democracy, where I’ll be sharing updates on our impactful work in the coming months. Feel free to connect with me at simarpreet@evidencefordemocracy.ca—I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Together, let’s advocate for a future where evidence guides policy, shaping a brighter tomorrow.

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