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From Lab Bench to Advocacy: My Journey to Evidence For Democracy

After nearly a decade of experiences in science communications, policy and advocacy, I couldn’t think of a better home than Evidence for Democracy!

As I wrap up my PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Ottawa, I am thrilled to be joining E4D as the Executive Director. My time as a researcher has certainly inspired my love and passion for science more broadly. My research uses yeast (yes, the same yeast that gives us beer, bread and wine) as a model organism for studying human disease. Why yeast? Because humans and yeast share 23% of the same genes! This means that yeast research can help us learn more about human disease, as an alternative to more costly clinical research. These days, you can find me in my small (but mighty) brewery in my basement where I channel my love for science in more creative ways!

Overall, my journey into graduate studies challenged me to think critically about our scientific ecosystem and structures. I became involved with student government early on, and it was this experience that inspired me to take a larger role in advocacy for my fellow students. After I first learned the term “science policy” at an annual Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) Conference, I was hooked! I became a volunteer and staff member at CSPC for the next 5 years. Additionally, the power of twitter allowed me to join forces with like-minded students at the University of Ottawa and together we founded the Ottawa Science Policy Network.

This incredible group of students helped me execute a national survey looking at graduate student finances in Canada, filling the void of data on the funding crisis plaguing our next generation of researchers. The results of our survey were unambiguous: Graduate students in Canada were facing significant financial challenges. As one of the first in my family to pursue university, let alone graduate school, finances were a challenge from my first day of my undergraduate degree. To this day, I have worked over 15 jobs to self-finance my 11 year journey to become a scientist. Over the past two years, I have been vocal about this experience as an example of the barriers we are placing on our next generation of researchers.

Eventually, I connected with faculty, graduate students, and postdocs who wanted to take a larger stance on this issue, and we ultimately came together to form the Support Our Science campaign. As the group’s first Executive Director, I charged our mission forward supporting the delivery of 4 petitions to the House of Commons (supported by 4 political parties) with nearly 15,000 signatures, organizing a Nationwide Walkout across 46 Canadian institutions, executing the first Support Our Science Advocacy Week, and so much more! It is safe to say, my passion for advocacy blossomed into an obsession. I became fascinated with politics, and found myself watching committee meetings and question periods during late nights at the lab. I knew my future was in the policy space.

As I transition into my new role here at E4D, I remain committed to creating more champions of science at all levels of governance. If I have learned anything in the last two years it is that scientists have a role to play, and when we put our minds to it, our collective voices and stories resonate with both policymakers and the broader public.

I can’t wait to connect with more researchers and partners over the coming months as we continue on this journey together to promote the transparent use of evidence in decision-making!

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