Celebrating women at the forefront

A compilation illustration of many women’s faces

Celebrating women at the forefront

A collection of stories about talented researchers to mark the 2020 International Day of Girls and Women in Science (February 11) and International Women’s Day (March 8)
January 8, 2020

Research is driven by ideas, and ideas come from human experience and imagination. By including a full array of perspectives, talents and insights into research questions, there is greater potential to generate innovative solutions to some of the world’s most vexing issues.

Many of the women researchers we have featured demonstrate how their unique perspectives are contributing to Canada’s research leadership in a variety of fields. To mark International Day of Girls and Women in Science and International Women’s Day, we salute some of them in this collection of stories.

  • Mental illness is a leading cause of disability and costs the Canadian economy some $51 billion every year from health care costs and lost productivity and quality of life, according to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. In fact, it is estimated that by the time Canadians reach 40 years old, half will have experienced a mental health problem and in any given year, about 20 percent of the population experiences a mental health or addiction problem. Still, access to care can be inadequate for many reasons. It’s often underfunded, so resources are scarce. Persistent stigmas...
  • One of the perks of Kyly Whitfield’s job is holding lots of babies — as she does here in February 2019 in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province — while their mothers provide data. Image courtesy of Jelisa Gallant Six years ago, while in Cambodia at the start of her PhD studies, University of British Columbia student Kyly Whitfield was enjoying a dinner of rice and fish with colleagues from Helen Keller International. Someone from the NGO, which battles malnutrition and blindness around the world, casually remarked how common infantile beriberi was...
  • In 2016, Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC), which manages the country’s supply of eggs, decided to phase out conventional cages in favour of housing requirements that give hens more space to perch, nest and scratch, either in larger enriched cages equipped to accommodate those instincts, or in cage-free barns. But for egg farmers, the move toward cage-free systems can drive up costs, especially because the practices are relatively new and not as well understood as conventional cages. For example, it can be harder to control the temperature and air quality in dustier cage-free barns. It’s also...
  • For the thousands of Ontarians living with aphasia — a language disorder that impairs the ability to communicate — something as simple as buying a movie ticket can be a real struggle. However, thanks to training from Aphasia Friendly Canada, 20 businesses — and counting — in Windsor and Essex County in southwestern Ontario are better equipped to serve them. That includes Lakeshore Cinemas near Tecumseh, Ont. “[This training has] provided [my staff] with more tools to handle those communication challenges with confidence,” says assistant manager Chelsea Reaume. “We’ve had a lot...
  • Video games are big business in Canada, and levelling up every year. According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, which represents video game developers, publishers and distributors, the industry added $3.7 billion to the country’s GDP last year, an increase of 24 percent since 2015 and it is responsible for nearly 22,000 full-time jobs. Canada is the world’s third largest video game producer after the U.S. and Japan. But with the advent of online games over the past decade, it is also an industry in flux, and to remain competitive, companies need to adapt quickly....
  • Mud clouded the water as Elizabeth Greene dug her way through the sediment at an underwater archaeological site during a 2015 excavation in southwest Turkey. Despite working almost blind, she saw something poking out of the ground. She felt it with her finger tips: the tines of a small wooden comb peeking their way through the sand. The comb was probably part of a delousing kit used 2,500 years ago. This ancient artifact was found in a harbour on the Datça Peninsula in Burgaz, a Turkish archaeological site overlooking the Mediterranean sea. “We can imagine this sailor who was combing the...
  • When non-Indigenous scientists wish to conduct research in Indigenous communities, cultural misunderstandings can arise over issues including the methods of research, ownership of data and interpretation of results. In this podcast, Carrie Bourassa –  Research Chair in Indigenous and Northern Health and Senior Scientist at Health Sciences North Research Institute in Sudbury, Ontario – talks about the complexities of conducting research in First Nations communities and the philosophy of Indigenous research methodology. ...
  • It’s not surprising that farmers experience back pain more often than most of us. They work long hours, lift massive loads, and hop on and off large tractors and trucks. But one unexpected source of back pain comes from the vibrations caused by driving heavy equipment. University of Saskatchewan student Xiaoke Zeng worked first-hand with farmers to study the health effects of whole-body vibration. “Driving is such a regular thing they do every day and they’re not only driving one piece of equipment, they’re transferring very frequently,” says Zeng. “Vibration level definitely...
  • Helen Hambly Odame says that for Canadian farms to survive and thrive in the 21st century tractors and rain are only part of the formula: farmers also need digital tools and high-speed Internet access to use them. “The Canadian agricultural industry and farmers need to get ahead of the curve on these technologies,” says Hambly Odame, an agriculture communication and rural development researcher at the University of Guelph. Hambly Odame is a Canadian and international leader in working to identify ways to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban Canadians. With CFI support, in...
  • Rachel Bar was helping with a dance class for people with Parkinson’s disease at Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) in Toronto, when one of the participants told her the class had made a big difference for him. “We’d been working on a dance for a long time and he described how he had been having a really off day,” Bar says. The dance student often experienced freezing — a temporary inability to move, which is seen in some people with Parkinson’s. “He said, ‘as soon as I heard the music I just started to dance!’ The dance was freedom from his frozen state.” It was a...