One team
Friday, Feb. 11 marks the seventh International Day of Women and Girls in Science. A host of events are taking place around the world – and across UHN – to commemorate the day.

Only one-third of all researchers worldwide are women, and they tend to have shorter, less well-paid careers. Their work is underrepresented in high-profile journals and they are often passed over for promotion, according to the United Nations. To address this inequity, the UN in December 2015 declared each Feb. 11 will be known as the "International Day of Women and Girls in Science."

It is a day to celebrate the women researchers, clinician-scientists, trainees, learners and research staff members at UHN who are making a difference every day through their dedication to research and discovery. These colleagues are not only on the leading edge of their respective research areas, but also paving the way and inspiring future generations.

Here's a roundup of some ways this important day is being celebrated across UHN:

UHN's Krembil Research Institute hosts annual virtual event streamed to students in middle school and high school

More than two thousand students are registered for the second Krembil-hosted International Day of Women and Girls in Science event, with a goal of inspiring a new generation of scientists.

Krembil's annual "International Day of Women and Girls in Science" virtual event will take place on Feb. 11th at 10 a.m. and is geared to middle and high school students, as well as anyone with an interest in a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Drs. Tahani Baakdah, Sindhu Johnson and Mary Pat McAndrews will share details on what led them to seek out a career in science and medicine, take us through a day-in-the-life of a scientist, as well as discuss the impact of their work in the fields of vision, arthritis and brain research.

"Science is a team sport," says Dr. Johnson. "We keep adding on each other's work until we get closer to the answer we want."

"The best life lesson I've learned in science is to be always curious because that does fuel your energy and your enthusiasm and helps you develop grit," says Dr. McAndrews. "That marriage of passion and perseverance will get you through, when things seem a little bit rocky or tough."

Dr. Baakdah uses crocheted designs to help translate her science to new audiences.

"I want to communicate the knowledge that I have with others and make complex scientific information easier to understand," she says. "I hope to inspire people about the work that we do."

Dr. Eugenia Addy, CEO of Visions of Science Network for Learning (VoSNL), will moderate the event. VoSNL is a charitable organization that empowers youth from low-income communities through meaningful engagement in STEM.

This public education and outreach event is free and open to the public. Registrants will be provided with a recorded link as well.

Our continuing mission for gender equity at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

Gender Equity Committee
Co-Chairs of the Princess Margaret Gender Equity Committee (L to R) Drs. Anastasia Tikhonova, Catherine O'Brien and Courtney Jones.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is the birthplace of stem cell discovery and a powerhouse in cancer research, attracting the brightest minds from around the world to accelerate cancer discovery.

The diversity of the cancer research community is paramount to deepen our understanding and accelerate new therapies. The Princess Margaret Gender Equity Committee is focused on that exact mission.

The committee works closely with the UHN Research Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee to achieve gender equity in representation, leadership, research and recognition among scientists, trainees, and staff at the Princess Margaret.

Over the past year, the committee has begun to tackle gender bias within the research ecosystem with several initiatives aimed at eliminating hurdles faced by women who want to pursue a career in science.

Dr. Courtney Jones, scientist and Co-Chair of the Gender Equity Committee, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, says women are not well represented in leadership positions in academic research. To help address this, PM is taking a multipronged approach to invest in leadership training for scientists.

"First, we are funding faculty level scientists to participate in external leadership courses," she says. "Second, we are developing internal leadership courses specifically for faculty and trainees."

Dr. Jones says in addition to those efforts, the committee is learning more about the challenges faced by researchers with children. PM is conducting a UHN-wide survey inquiring about the most common issues facing those researchers.

"Women are twice as likely compared to men to leave research positions when they have children," Dr. Jones says. "To identify potential barriers and solutions for parent researchers we have launched this survey and the results will be used to propose changes that can improve the lives of researchers with children."

The committee is co-chaired by Drs. Catherine O'Brien, Courtney Jones, and Anastasia Tikhonova, and includes Drs. Linda Penn, Benjamin Haibe-Kains, Mathieu Lupien, Rama Khokha and Kristin Hope as committee members.

Ajmera Transplant Centre launches social media campaign showcasing three world-renowned women scientists

(L to R): Drs. Tereza Martinu, Sonya MacParland and Mamatha Bhat.

UHN's Ajmera Transplant Centre (ATC) will be celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science by posting video messages from successful female scientists who are leading world-class research at the ATC.

The campaign will happen throughout the day, with scientists sharing what inspired them to pursue a career in STEM, and inviting others on social media to participate in the conversation.

Follow along through ATC's Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

The scientists participating are:

  • Dr. Mamatha Bhat, hepatologist and clinician-scientist at Ajmera Transplant Centre and at Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI). Dr. Bhat's work uses artificial intelligence tools to improve care for patients with liver disease and transplant patients.
  • Dr. Sonya MacParland, scientist at Ajmera Transplant Centre and TGHRI, recently awarded a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Liver Immunobiology. Dr. MacParland's work focuses on the immune biology of the liver and how that can be translated to treating and preventing diseases.
  • Dr. Tereza Martinu, lung transplant respirologist and clinician-scientist with the Toronto Lung Transplant Program at Ajmera Transplant Centre and scientist at TGHRI. Dr. Martinu studies cellular mechanisms in the lungs that can impact organ acceptance.

The Office of Research Trainees spotlights women-led podcast

Seeds of Science podcast
The Seeds of Science podcast is set to launch in spring 2022.

To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the Office of Research Trainees sheds a spotlight on three exceptional UHN trainees who are making great strides in their research and are launching a UHN trainee podcast to build more community at UHN.

The Seeds of Science trainee podcast was an idea that Dr. Emily Mills, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Karen Davis' lab at Krembil Research Institute, conceived while performing her postdoctoral research. With the help of UHN trainees Rima El-Sayed and Dr. Olivia Mekhael, a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow at Krembil Research Institute and Toronto General Hospital Research Institute respectively, they are developing and growing the idea into a reality.

UHN has more than 1,300 trainees performing research in seven different research institutes, at sites all across Toronto. Each of these trainees has diverse experiences, backgrounds, research and stories to share.

The Seeds of Science podcast provides a platform for these UHN graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to tell their stories and connect and learn from each other. Each episode will explore the unique experience of a UHN trainee, providing a snapshot into their research, their achievements, the obstacles they've faced and their life outside of research.

In addition to providing an outlet for UHN trainees to engage with their peers, the team hopes that the podcast will inspire undergraduate students to pursue graduate degrees in research by providing them a window into the lives of research trainees. This includes inspiring women and girls who are passionate about science.

"I think it is an exciting time for women and girls to follow a STEM career path," Dr. Mills. "My advice would be to find several female-identifying mentors in the STEM field who are in different stages of their research training and career.

"It is important to be able to identify with your mentors – this way, you can visualize yourself in their shoes at different stages throughout the journey."

The Seeds of Science podcast will launch in spring 2022 on the ORT website with guidance and financial support from the Office of Research Trainees.

Meet three KITE research trainees

(L to R) Azadeh Barzideh, PhD candidate, Nevena Musikic, PhD candidate, and Raheleh Saryazdi, post-doctoral fellow.

The KITE Research Institute at UHN is once again proud to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science by profiling three outstanding research trainees.

Each year, more young women choose to pursue a career in STEM, and we are humbled by the growing number of them who have decided to pursue their scientific dreams at KITE.

KITE's success would not be possible without the contributions and talent of a diverse team of trainees, scientists and staff who have dedicated their careers to improving the lives of those affected by injury, illness and aging.

Learn about the inspiration behind their pursuit of a career in STEM, challenges they have encountered – and how they overcame them – the important role of female mentors and why they think it's important to have diverse voices in the lab.

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