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Molly Shoichet

A Conversation with Molly

What is your current job? Please list the title and briefly describe what it involves

I am Professor in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. I lead a laboratory of 25 researchers – graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, technicians – and together we use engineering, chemistry and biology to solve big problems in medicine. We are particularly interested in promoting tissue regeneration in the brain (after stroke), eye (due to blindness) and spinal cord (after traumatic injury). We are also interested in cancer – that is designing strategies to specifically kill cancer cells with targeted delivery strategies and more predictive drug screening. In addition to research, I enjoy teaching undergraduate students. I am the President’s Senior Advisor on Science & Engineering Engagement at the University of Toronto and co-Founded, Research2Reality – a national social media campaign that connects today’s research to tomorrow’s reality.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I love discovery. I love working with brilliant people who share my passion to solve unsolved problems that face humanity. I am driven to make a difference and to find answers. Research at the intersection of engineering, chemistry and biology is enormously stimulating and engaging.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love working with super-smart and super-motivated people. The best part of my job is that I’m always learning and then I’m using this knowledge to come up with better solutions.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

We celebrate engineering every day and every month. National Engineering Month brings greater visibility to our field. Most people still think of engineers with hard hats, yet engineers span many different disciplines from biomedical to chemical to civil. The Biomedical and Chemical Engineers, like myself, use the same fundamental principles but apply them to solve different problems. It is this diversity in engineering that makes it fantastic to be an engineer.

What advice do you have for young women who hope to pursue a career in your field?

Biomedical and Chemical Engineering are fantastic fields – they give you the opportunity to make a difference to people all over the world. A career in science/engineering is not easy, but nothing worth achieving is easy. Stay in the game – don’t give up – pursue your dreams to make a difference.

Molly’s BiographyMolly Shoichet is an expert in the study of polymers for drug delivery and tissue regeneration. She holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering and is Professor of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, Chemistry, and Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. Professor Shoichet was recruited to the faculty at the University of Toronto in 1995 with a NSERC University Faculty Award, after completing her S.B. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Chemistry (1987), her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Polymer Science and Engineering (1992), and three years in industry at CytoTherapeutics Inc. Professor Shoichet was promoted to Full Professor in 2004, after being named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 (2002), and receiving CIfAR’s Young Explorer’s Award (to the top 20 scientists under 40 in Canada, 2002) and NSERC’s Steacie Research Fellowship (2003-2005). In 2014, Professor Shoichet was appointed University Professor in recognition of her dedication to the advancement of knowledge and the University’s academic mission, and her excellence as a teacher, mentor and researcher. This is the University of Toronto’s highest distinction, and is held by less than 2% of the faculty.

Professor Shoichet aims to advance the basic science and enabling technologies of tissue engineering and drug delivery. She is a world leader in the areas of polymer synthesis, biomaterials design and drug delivery in the nervous system. Her research program is unique in its breadth, focusing on strategies to promote tissue repair after traumatic spinal cord injury, stroke and blindness and enhance tumour targeting through innovative polymeric nanomicelle synthesis.

Professor Shoichet has published over 530 papers, patents and abstracts and has given over 325 lectures worldwide and has trained 172 scientists in the past 20 years. Her students are pursuing careers in academia, industry and government. She founded two spin-off companies and is actively engaged in translational research with several industry partners and science outreach. In 2015, Professor Shoichet launched a national social media initiative, Research2Reality, aimed at engaging the public in the importance of research. Professor Shoichet served as an inaugural member on the Science, Technology & Innovation Council (for 6 years) and the Ontario Research & Innovation Council, and she just completed her term serving on the Board of the Ontario Centres of Excellence (for 6 years). She is currently the Senior Advisor to President Meric Gertler (U of T) on Science & Engineering Engagement.

Professor Shoichet is the recipient of 41 prestigious national and international awards. She is the only person ever to be inducted into all three of Canada’s National Academies: the Canadian Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Moreover, she is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and recipient of the Clemson Award from the American Society for Biomaterials, the Senior Scientist Award from the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society, Americas, and the Killam Research Fellowship from Canada Council for the Arts, among many others. In 2011, Professor Shoichet received the Order of Ontario, Ontario’s highest honour. In 2013, her contributions to Canada’s innovation agenda and the advancement of knowledge were recognized with the QEII Diamond Jubilee Award. Professor Shoichet was the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate for North America in 2015 and elected Foreign Member of the US National Academy of Engineering in 2016.

Learn more about Molly’s workHere’s Molly Shoichet’s TEDxToronto talk: “The Future of Medicine is Personal”

Here’s a blog post written for Discov/Her.

To know more about Molly’s recent research, click here.

A series of videos and additional content are also available on the Shoichet Lab website.

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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