SFU celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science
SFU is celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Here is a quick glimpse of why some of our prominent women in science chose science as a career, along with their encouraging advice for young women and girls today.
DAWN MACKEY – FACULTY OF SCIENCE
With a lifelong interest in science and health, it’s fitting that 15 years after graduating from SFU, Dawn Mackey is now a professor in SFU’s Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology. Mackey’s Aging and Population Health lab focuses on discovering ways to help older adults stay active, mobile and independent, while also generating new insights about the cause, prevention and management of age-related mobility limitations. The lab’s clinical research on mobility and aging aims to ensure healthy aging for all Canadians as well as sustainable national health-care costs.
Mackey credits her parents for encouraging her early participation in science fairs and for providing the freedom and support to pursue her interests. She has also had many mentors along the way.
“As a student I had great mentors who helped me to believe that I had what it took to be a scientist,” she says. “That mentoring was crucial and helped me build the confidence to pursue a career in science.”
Mackey says balancing duties as a professor and researcher is challenging but rewarding.
“Mostly, I try to enjoy the present and give myself some slack when I fail. Failure is part of life and science and a great opportunity to build resilience.”
PARVANEH SAEEDI – FACULTY OF APPLIED SCIENCE
Engineering science professor Parvaneh Saeedi leads SFU’s Laboratory for Robotic Vision, where she uses her expertise in computer vision, biomedical engineering and image analysis to conduct research and develop tools for medical and satellite imaging. One of her research areas addresses the need for better medical imaging tools for fertility treatment. She recently developed software that can help with selecting embryos for in vitro fertilization.
“As a female researcher, my heart is set to contribute to this field so that higher-quality healthcare can be delivered to women at a lower cost,” she says.
This year, Saeedi has also taken on the new role of associate dean, research and graduate studies for the Faculty of Applied Sciences. Her priorities include implementing strategies that strengthen graduate programs and promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Research shows that diversity in teams delivers better,” says Saeedi. “People from different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences offer diverse perspectives that can lead to more innovative solutions.”
Saeedi credits her supportive mentors, who encouraged her through her early career, and shares a similar positive message to the young generation of female engineers.
“I encourage young women to pursue their studies in engineering or related fields,” she says. “This is a career path where you will make a high impact on society, and where your skills and perspectives are needed to ensure we can develop the groundbreaking technologies of tomorrow.”
Read Saeedi's full Q&A on the FAS page.
ZABRINA BRUMME – FACULTY OF HEALTH SCIENCES
Zabrina Brumme’s fascination with studying the HIV virus grew from a passion for science she’s had since she was a child.
A professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Brumme integrates molecular biology, epidemiology and computational approaches to study how HIV can adapt and evolve within populations.
Through analyzing population-based cohorts of HIV-infected individuals in Canada and worldwide, Brumme’s research has helped to create “maps” of the HIV genome that systematically identify specific sites and pathways where the virus has evaded host immunity.
Recently, Brumme and her team discovered a way of identifying multiple strains of HIV that can remain dormant in an individual. Tracking the evolutionary history of the virus is critical for advancing research that leads to designing an effective HIV vaccine or cure that could completely eliminate the disease.
Brumme is the laboratory director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, where she continues to investigate HIV at a molecular level. In addition to her research, Brumme mentors and supervises graduate students in her lab, sharing her passion for science while training the next generation of scientists.
ANNE SALOMON – FACULTY OF ENVIRONMENT
Anne Salomon is an applied marine ecologist and professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management in the Faculty of Environment.
As a 13-year-old, she recalls dressing up like renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, her hero, to give a speech about chimpanzee conservation to her classmates. She credits Goodall for “inspiring a generation of women to explore the remote corners of our planet, observe nature and her mysteries and do whatever we can to conserve them.”
Salomon is doing just that. Trading in her khakis for a wet suit, she now conducts research along B.C.’s west coast.
With a deep interest in understanding how human activities alter the productivity, biodiversity and resilience of coastal marine food webs, Salomon’s research ultimately informs ecosystem approaches to marine conservation.
In studying clam gardens, kelp forests, sea otters and more, she takes a novel approach to her research by building partnerships with coastal communities. She links science with local and traditional knowledge to foster both social justice and ecological sustainability.
Her work has attracted many awards, including a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation and the International Ecology Institute’s Top 40 Under 40 Professional Prize of Excellence.