Shirley Tang named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Nanochemist Shirley Tang has been named among the top 100 most powerful women in Canada for her research impact and empowering women in STEM. The annual rankings were released today by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN).

WXN rankings are widely seen as a measure of exceptional impact for leadership in business, research, science, arts, public administration and community advocacy. The WXN rankings define power through compassion, humility and the promotion of collective well-being rather than more traditional measures of power, such as wealth, status or physical strength.

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Shirley Tang is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and member of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and Centre of Bioengineering and Biotechnology. She is the Co-Founder and scientific advisor of LeNano Diagnostics, an Ontario-based medical technology innovator, incorporated in 2016.

Her research is internationally recognized for its pioneering work on hybrid nanobiomaterials and devices, which has applications in health-related fields. Her research crosses disciplines and unites chemistry, biology, nanoengineering and medicine.

Empowering women in Science and Technology

Shirley Tang portrait

Tang empowers others through her leadership roles from serving as a role model, to mentoring young scientists to her outreach with the community. She is currently the Associate Dean of Science, Research and a member of the Board of Directors for the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology. She served as the Director of Waterloo's Nanotechnology Engineering program, Canada's only undergraduate nanotechnology engineering program for three years.

She understands the importance of role models and works hard to build an inclusive environment for gender, sex and racial diversity in her lab. She works closely with her students, provides personalized guidance and shares her passion for STEM. She encourages her students to dream big and shows both female and male students they can strike a work-life balance, support significant others and contribute to scientific research. Tang actively promotes science to the next generation of female scientists. She encourages their interests, assists with career development strategies and offers guidance. She has served as a judge in the Waterloo-Wellington Science Fair every year for the past decade.

Career accomplishments

Tang is a research powerhouse and has been published in top journals in her field. Her research on the controlled organization of carbon nanostructures (carbon nanotubes), graphene and their chemical derivatives and biopolymers led to the creation of novel functional and bio-materials and devices. Her applied research has led to key developments in biosensing and tissue engineering. She is also exploiting 3D bioprinting as a powerful tool to increase the reproducibility, scability and heterogeneity of engineered cardiac tissue.

She initiated several collaborations with clinicians and researchers in the field of biomedical engineering to explore nanochemistry empowered solutions for early diagnosis and regenerative medicine. From her research, groundbreaking analytical tools based on nanobiosensors with artifical intelligence integration were created and currently going through clinical trials for commercialization. Through entrepreneurship and industrial partnership, Tang's research helps create life-changing medical innovations for Canadians.

Impact on their field

Tang has made significant impact on the field of nanobiotechnology as well as the biomanufacturing and life science industries. She pioneered a class of hybrid scaffold materials for tissue engineering by integrating functional nanostructures to offer extraordinary mechanical, electrical and rheological properities. Combined with 3D printing and microfabrication, the new materials could provide disruptive biofabrication technology with broad applications in drug discovery, implantables and biorobotics. 

She has a strong record of knowledge translation and commercialization. She founded a company, LeNano Diagnostics, Inc. to commercialize a point-of-care testing system for early diagnosis and outpatient monitoring of heart failure. The potential impact of this emerging diagnostic technology on cardiovascular care will be profound and go beyond Canadian borders. She has also collaborated with industry partners 3M Canada and Angstom Engineering.

Commitment and advocacy for women in STEM

Tang has devoted extensive effort to promote women in STEM. She aims to shatter the gender boundaries in science and be an example that women can excel in positions of leadership. She has undertaken several leadership roles, enthusiastically supported student initiatives and female researchers. In her lab she promotes, encourages and mentors women in science. She has participated in numerous hiring, equity and advisory committees. Her goal is to bring women's voices into the discussion and help foster an environment that is comfortable for all genders to create fair and unbiased planning and policy development.

She actively brings science to female youth by breaking barriers, stigma and shows how science can change the world around them. She designed scientific demonstrations and lessons for Girl Scouts. She also attended their events to explain scientific concepts and show how interesting, impactful and approachable science is.

Original article: Department of Chemistry