Celebrating Women in Science

Friday, March 8, 2024

By Sarah Fullerton

Digital Communications Specialist

Today marks International Women’s Day, a day that celebrates and recognizes the incredible achievements of women all around the world. This year's theme, Inspire Inclusion, encourages us to embrace diversity and value women's inclusion in all aspects of life.  

At the Faculty of Science, we are constantly inspired by the remarkable women in our faculty and their determination to make a difference through science. Continue reading to learn more about their stories, what inspiring inclusion means to them, and their advice for emerging young scientists. 

Meet Kirsten Müller

A headshot of Kirsten. She is wearing a grey winter hat and a blue winter coat. There is a lake and white capped mountains in the background.

Professor, Biology; Chair

About Dr. Müller

Kirsten is a Professor of Biology and the first woman Chair of the Department of Biology. Her research is focused on the harmful algal blooms on freshwater ecosystems as well as on the distribution of intertidal seaweeds globally under the impacts of climate change.   

In 2019, Kirsten was one of four Canadian women chosen to participate in a yearlong leadership program called Homeward Bound.  This program culminated in a carbon-neutral voyage to Antarctica where 99 women explored their leadership in the context of a changing world and how they could make a difference in the future of our planet. Currently, she is teaching a large fourth-year biology course on Marine Biology (BIOL450) and is having so much fun with them!

What does inspire inclusion mean to you?

Representation in the classroom, research laboratories, and leadership positions is critical for equity-seeking groups to see themselves in those roles. A greater diversity in our communities allows for diversity in thought, ideas, and innovation.  As Chair, I can help shape the diversity in Biology and work towards ensuring our faculty represents the student community we teach. 

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Don’t be in such a hurry! I was so focused on becoming a professor and scientist that I rushed through the early part of my career – pushing myself on a timeline that only existed in my head.  Now, I work on being mindful of the choices I make and if they reflect my values. 

About Dr. Lee

Brenda is a Continuing Lecturer in the Department of Physics & Astronomy and the first Lecturer to be appointed as Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies for her department. Brenda completed her PhD in Biophysics at Waterloo, focusing on the use of nanotechnology tools to study membrane biophysics, disease progression, and antimicrobial peptide drug interactions. Brenda found her calling in university teaching throughout her time in graduate studies and found teaching opportunities across campus while completing her degree. That experience has helped her understand the importance of interdisciplinary studies and good science communication within the classroom. 

As a Lecturer, Brenda teaches a wide variety of courses. Outside of teaching, Brenda is very active in the department, serving as the academic advisor for Life Physics / Biological & Medical Physics.  Recently, she helped launch the Physics Tutorial Centre, which provides peer-supported learning to all students taking Physics courses.  

What does inspire inclusion mean to you?

When I think of “Inspire Inclusion,” I look back to champions who created opportunities for women and persons from all walks of life, and who encouraged the value of diversity within an organization. Without those champions, I would not be where I am today. In the world of education, no one should be faced with barriers to learning or be blocked from pathways to success, and inspiring inclusion means, to me, a way of allowing everyone to be the best they can be, so that they can in turn, become role models and mentors for future generations. 

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

The advice I would give to my 20-year-old self would be to “try harder at being yourself and don’t be afraid of letting others see who you truly are." Fitting in socially was something I always struggled with growing up, and in many cases, I had to hide parts of myself that did not correlate well with social or cultural norms. It has required a lot of growth on my part towards self-acceptance and self-confidence after my undergraduate studies, and I am lucky to have had role models and loved ones who have helped me get there and step out of my comfort zone. 

Meet Brenda Lee

A headshot of Brenda. She is wearing a black blazer and t-shirt. She is standing with her arms crossed.

Continuing Lecturer, Associate Chair Undergraduate Studies Physics and Astronomy

Meet Laura Deakin

A headshot of Lisa standing in an illuminated hallway. She is wearing a red long sleeve shirt.

Continuing Lecturer, Chemistry; Associate Dean of Science for Teaching and Learning

About Dr. Deakin

Laura is a Lecturer in the Chemistry department and the Associate Dean of Science for Teaching and Learning. She has taught undergraduate courses at the University of Waterloo and the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Laura is the first Science lecturer to hold the position of Associate Dean of Science for Teaching and Learning (formerly undergraduate studies) in the Faculty of Science.  

As an Associate Dean of Science, Laura is building programs and courses that help students explore what their futures might look like. Understanding that students feel pressure, she hopes to help them on their path toward their future careers while having fun in science.  

What does inspire inclusion mean to you?

To me, inclusion means fostering an environment where another person can see their dreams become a reality. I distinctly remember a moment as a PhD student when I felt I wouldn’t fit into the world of academia; it seemed overwhelmingly hostile and aggressive. I strive to remain conscious of my words and actions so that those I interact with walk away with a strengthened self-confidence, and a feeling that they can see a path for their dreams and aspirations. 

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

My advice would be to take a moment. Life gets busy, deadlines are flying around, and at times there is barely a second to reflect on choices being made. My 20-year-old self was running from one activity to the next, many times not considering choices as intentional. Our students are just as busy, with many too busy to connect with others or too overwhelmed to slowly consider an important opportunity. I would have benefitted from learning how to take a moment to breathe and reflect. 

About Dr. Basu

Dr. Nandita Basu is a Professor and Canada Research Chair of Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology, jointly appointed between the Departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is an Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Hydrology, a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a member of the Royal Society College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists, and an Earth Leadership Fellow.   

Nandita is a watershed hydrologist and biogeochemist, with over 100 publications that cover a broad range of issues related to water quality in human-impacted environments.  Nandita uses data science, process modelling and remote sensing to explore how climate, land use, and management impact surface and groundwater quality. Her research leverages these insights to develop watershed management strategies that consider trade-offs and synergies between economic activity and environmental sustainability. She leads multiple large initiatives, including a recently funded $6M grant on nature-based solutions in agricultural landscapes. 

What does inspire inclusion mean to you?

To me, “inspiring inclusion” means taking action at individual and organizational levels, to create structural changes within a system that enable women and minorities to truly belong. Small changes such as nominating a woman for an award, providing travel assistance for young mothers to attend conferences, increasing the representation of women and other underrepresented groups in leadership roles, and providing adequate support to early career staff can have a big impact on fostering inclusion. Representation matters, and for me, inspiring inclusion is elevating one another and creating a space of belonging that makes one person’s path less rocky than mine.

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Trust your instincts and follow your truth. Stop trying to fit in, rather, find spaces where you can truly belong. Even though it seems impossible now, life will guide you to your place, and you will be ok. Have the courage to be vulnerable, to be imperfect, and don’t let the fear of failure keep you from fighting in the arena. I suffered many setbacks early in my career and every setback hit hard. Over time I understood that I am more than my failures, but it took a long time to learn that lesson. I would have benefited from learning that lesson sooner. 

Meet Nandita Basu

A headshot of Nandita. She is wearing a read striped shirt and a black blazer. There are book shelves in the background.

Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences; Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology

Meet Andrea Edginton

A headshot of Andrea. She is wearing a black t-shirt and pants and is sitting on a chair with her hands crossed.

Professor, School of Pharmacy; Hallman Director; Associate Dean, Faculty of Science

About Dr. Edginton

Dr. Andrea Edginton is a Professor and the Hallman Director of the School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo. She has 120+ publications in pharmacokinetics and modelling and simulation. Her research focuses on the development and application of physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models in the areas of pharmaceuticals and human health risk assessment. Andrea heads the modelling component of the Web-Accessible Population Pharmacokinetics Service – Hemophilia (WAPPS-Hemo.org) project for tailoring treatment prophylaxis in persons with hemophilia; used in 50+ countries.  Beyond academia, Andrea is the COO of MAPflow Inc., a company providing web-based services to support pharmacist-led prescribing and VP of Design2Code Inc., a company developing scientific software and providing consulting services for pharmacokinetic modelling primarily for clinical trial planning. 

What does inspire inclusion mean to you?

I am a woman in leadership in many aspects of my life. One of the defining features of leadership is giving space for all to thrive and ensuring that policies, practices, communications and opportunities foster inclusion. This is something I actively think about and put into play in my life. I strive to ensure that when someone enters my small world, they feel important, valued, and confident in themselves. My research themes are also built around inclusion, and I focus on advancing care in communities typically marginalized in medication research, such as breastfeeding women, patients with rare diseases, and children.  

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

The advice I would give to young people starting their career is to spend time educating yourself first, as this is an asset that will stay with you forever. Flex your curiosity and be open to new people and experiences; learning how to navigate the world brings confidence. Finally, recognize that everyone else is human like you. If you see someone you admire and think, "I couldn’t possibly do what they do," reframe and ask, "What do I need to do so that I can do that?" A common ingredient in all winning recipes is confidence in oneself! 

About Dr. Christian

Dr. Christian is currently an Associate Clinical Professor and Associate Director for the Clinical Program at the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, and a Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD).  

Dr. Christian is also the co-national faculty liaison for COVD and is an Executive and Council Member for the College of Optometrists of Ontario. She has published numerous articles and given many presentations and lectures both nationally and internationally in the areas of interprofessional education, pediatric eye care and binocular vision. 

What does inspire inclusion mean to you?

Inspire inclusion means recognizing contributions made by everyone to help shape who we are.  Much of my research involves investigating how to provide optometric care for marginalized communities and underserved populations. I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the Region of Waterloo to learn about different backgrounds and cultures and have been able to help children who otherwise may not have received vision care. I’ve also been able to translate my research into the classroom and clinic, where I focus my teaching on cultural safety and educate students to become self-reflective clinicians. One of the main themes of my research and teaching is to take a moment and learn from everyone around you.  To me, listening is a key element to inspiring inclusion. 

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?  

I would tell myself to venture outside of my comfort zone and take time to learn something new and meet new people. We are so fortunate to be able to learn about different communities and backgrounds, without having to travel far distances.  It’s so easy to fall into the same routine and associate with familiar people, but there is a lot to learn from others who will ultimately have an impact and shape who you are.    

Meet Lisa Christian

A headshot of Lisa. She is wearing a black blazer and white shirt.

Associate Clinical Professor, Optometry & Vision Science; Associate Director of Clinical Education