“Ottawa is my hometown, but I moved around a bunch as a kid. I was born in Scotland, and lived in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Toronto. My dad actually worked at Mount Sinai Hospital, on the same floor I work on now. Even though I lived in different places, Canada has always been my home. My dad was born in Saudi Arabia and my mom is Scottish, so I’ve been fortunate to grow up with a lot of diverse cultural influences.
My dad was a cardiologist and my mom is an emergency nurse. I knew I did not want to go to medical school, but I wanted to find my own niche in medicine. I didn’t want to go into patient care necessarily. I always liked science growing up—biology and chemistry. I liked that my parents helped people, but I wanted to use my own skill set and find a different way to help people, so that’s why I ended up in academia.
My goal now is to use 21st-century technology to understand how development occurs in the mammary gland, and what the implications are in cancer. What’s exciting to me is the development of new bio-informatic tools, and the interface of computational biology with basic science. The sky is the limit to what we can do now, even compared to when I was PhD student. We can re-ask questions that were asked in the 1990s or 2000s, or even the 2010s, and answer them in a different light. We can either confirm things we knew, or find things at a higher resolution than what we knew before.
I think if I wasn’t in science, I would have liked to have gone to culinary school and become a chef. I feel like science and cooking are one and the same; you follow a recipe and you see a result and when you see that result you can improve on it for next time. I like to work with my hands and interpret a recipe and change a recipe to see what works and what doesn’t work. It’s part of the chemistry that I really like.
In my career, if something I do impacts a single person’s health, or helps a single person with a disease or health issue, I will be satisfied in having chosen this career.”