Leaving family, friends and Wi-Fi might not be most people’s idea of a dream experience. However, for biology Professor Kirsten Müller, these things are necessary for her upcoming once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica. In this trip, she will travel alongside 99 other women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine) fields as the fourth cohort of Homeward Bound.
Homeward Bound brings together women from around the world in a unique leadership training program at the southernmost continent of our home planet. Participants travel to such remote regions because there, the effects of climate change are very apparent. The melting glaciers and changing ecosystems set the backdrop for three weeks of learning how science leaders can play a role in implementing changes surrounding climate change within their roles back home.
Of the 100 women from 34 different countries, Professor Müller is one of only four Canadians selected for this cohort, of which only two live and research in Canada – the second is Tammy Eger from Laurentian University in Sudbury. Professor Müller’s research focuses on algae, and has recently expanded into studying the effect that climate change has on communities of algae. Spanning topics from invasive seaweed species moving into warmer waters to forest fires promoting algal blooms, the changing climate is impacting these species around the world. In addition to research, she is also Assistant Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Waterloo, and the President of the Phycological Society of America.
"I’ve found myself in all of these leadership roles here at the university, and I greatly enjoy advocating for students and student experience, and working with campus partners to develop policies around graduate studies. Additionally, my research is around the impact of climate change. So for me, Homeward Bound is a real confluence of these two things coming together at once… realizing I have the potential to be a strong leader, and knowing I still have so much to learn."
This program is not only aimed at improving leadership skills, but also about building connections to empower women around the world. The members of cohort 4 will join the 237 previous program alumni in an international network of scientists and researchers from a wide range of disciplines, with a goal of including over 1000 women in this network over the coming years.
“Going to Antarctica is a real bonus, but there’s so much more I’m going to get out of it: the connection with other women in STEMM, and the ability to self-reflect and expand my leadership skills,” Professor Müller reflected. “I’m really excited!”
Professor Müller leaves Waterloo on November 15th to head to Ushuaia, Argentina. From there, the entire cohort will meet and start training on November 19th. The cohort will board the ship on November 22nd and travel for three weeks around the Antarctic peninsula and visit research bases before returning. You can follow their journey from the Homeward Bound social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn). The Waterloo community wishes Professor Müller a safe and inspiring journey, and look forward to hearing the stories she shares when she is back!