Bsc Neuroscience to Science Strategy lead
Name ( pronouns): Danielle Nadin (she/her/elle)
Course/ job:Science Strategy Lead, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Institute of Gender and Health
A levels/ equivalent :Don’t have A-levels in Canada
Undergrad and postgrad degrees
BSc in Neuroscience, McGill University
MSc in Neuroscience, McGill University
Favourite science fact
Octopuses have 9 brains, 3 hearts and sometimes punch fish in the face.
Journey in 3 Words : Brains, Interdisciplinary, Advocacy
Briefly describe your current role and Msc
During my MSc, I studied brain networks to better understand recovery trajectories for patients with severe brain injuries. During my MSc, I was also involved in science communication and advocacy initiatives outside the lab, which helped me discover my interests not only in doing science, but also in communicating it and ensuring the research environment is an equitable, inclusive and accessible space for all.
In my current role at the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health, I help embed sex- and gender-based analysis in Canadian health research. This involves keeping up with the most recent science in the area and developing materials like fact sheets, training modules and presentations to help equip researchers to apply these methods in their own work.
What motivated you to pursue a career in science
Growing up, I was always really curious about the natural world and how things worked. Throughout my life, I’ve wanted to be a geologist, an oceanographer, a marine biologist, and many other types of scientist. I’m also a very artistic person, and wanted to be an animation artist, an author, and a journalist. I struggled throughout my studies with feelings that I had to choose between science and art (which ended up being totally untrue and a false dichotomy). In high school, I began taking science courses and was really motivated by how much there was to learn. My teachers at the time encouraged me to pursue further education in science, and once I got an opportunity to be involved in research as an undergraduate student, I was hooked. I realized that science and creativity go hand in hand. I knew I wanted science to be part of my career, because it meant I would get to continuously learn new things and come up with creative solutions to find answers to difficult questions.
I definitely would not have applied to grad school if it wasn’t for my undergraduate research experience.
How did your undergraduate experience as a research assistant shape your application to grad school?
I definitely would not have applied to grad school if it wasn’t for my undergraduate research experience. I didn’t even know what grad school entailed when I started university. During my RAship, I got to do research with patients. This was the first time I really experienced first hand how what I was studying - the brain - could have an impact on real peoples’ lives. My supervisor at the time gave me a lot of responsibility as an undergraduate student, and I was able to help shape our research questions and analysis. By the end of my undergraduate degree, I wanted to continue this type of work, so I decided that grad school was the right choice for me.
How did you cope with completing a degree during the pandemic and how did you stay motivated?
The start of the pandemic was challenging because things began to shut down right when I was beginning data collection for one of my thesis projects. After over a year of designing the study and getting ethics approval to conduct it, the whole project had to be shut down overnight in order to keep patients and participants safe. I had to rethink the angle of my thesis. Luckily, I had a supportive advisor who helped me navigate this big change.
During the majority of the pandemic, I was lucky to be able to work from home because a lot of my research was computational. At the same time, this was challenging because I felt isolated. What helped a lot was connecting virtually with friends and labmates. This was also the time during which Black In Neuro was founded. My Black In Neuro family was really a saving grace for me in terms of connecting to other grad students and focussing my energy on a new project.
What’s important for me is that I’m able to catch myself when I’m out of balance and not taking time for myself
How do you maintain a work life balance with many extra projects you are involved with such as ( scicomm collective and Black in neuro)
I won’t lie, it’s not always a balance! Sometimes I have long nights and work on the weekends. What’s important for me is that I’m able to catch myself when I’m out of balance and not taking time for myself. I’ve learnt to step back from things and say no when I have too much on my plate. I also try to block off times where I do not schedule any meetings and focus on a specific task. I also am a big fan of planners and to-do lists; when I’m struggling to prioritize tasks, I’ll write out everything that I have to get done and spend some time organizing things into a realistic schedule.
Did you ever feel like you weren’t “focused” when pursuing things outside of the direct academic route and do you think you will go down the Phd route in the future?
Throughout my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I did feel a little confused about where I was heading and how all the things I was interested and involved in would converge into a career. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t feel focussed, because each of the things I was involved in was meaningful to me, and I tried to give it my 100%. But I definitely had moments of worry that all my seemingly disparate interests wouldn’t come together into a clear path. In the end, the experiences I gained outside of the lab and the classroom really complemented my scientific training. I think having both was helpful when I started applying for jobs.
In terms of a PhD, I’m not yet sure what the future holds! I definitely enjoy research and would love to do more neuroscience research in the future. That may be through a PhD, but could also be something I do in another capacity.
When considering your career path, how much has your potential salary affected your decision?
It was definitely a factor, because as graduate students we are often underpaid. I was privileged to receive fellowships to support my MSc, but when exploring careers I prioritized options that would offer more financial stability then the student stipends I received during my studies. Beyond that, since this was my first job post-grad school, I focussed primarily on whether my role would allow me to learn, grow and gain experience. I recognize that being able to prioritize that is a privilege.
- a quiet storm
Outside science how would you describe yourself
I think someone on the Black In Neuro team has referred to me as a quiet storm before. I’m a relatively quiet and reserved person, but I can also be quite opinionated and outspoken about things I’m passionate about. In terms of hobbies, I love plants (and have an ever-growing houseplant collection), science fiction and fantasy novels, painting and drawing.
Keep up with Danielle
Social media : Twitter @DanielleSipsTea