Cut: Nemer stresses that science should not be confined to the classroom. Photo: Phillip Jeffrey.

Dr. Nemer will advise Prime Minister, Cabinet on education, innovation

On Sept. 26, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced Mona Nemer, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s department of biochemistry, microbiology and immunology as Chief Science Advisor to the Government of Canada. In this role, Nemer will advise Trudeau and the Minister of Science by providing an objective and nonpartisan connection to the academic world.

The position was created by the Trudeau government as part of a campaign pledge to bring evidence-based policy into the political mainstream. Not to be confused with the Minister of Science, Nemer’s post is not an official government office. To better act as a voice of reason and a bridge to the greater scientific community, her position has been kept decidedly non-partisan.

Nemer’s distinguished contributions to the field of medicine and her role as a university administrator were crucial factors in her appointment to her new position. After completing her doctorate at McGill University, Nemer’s research in cardiology and genetics has led to several groundbreaking diagnostic techniques to identify and manage hereditary heart defects.

Nemer was named to the Order of Canada in 2014 and continues to carry out her research at the U of O, and having worked in a university setting, Nemer hopes that the government will work to improve science education among Canada’s youth, noting that their creativity and ingenuity will be an integral part of Canada’s future.

But despite her academic background, Nemer believes that public engagement is vital to Canada’s viability as a global research centre. When asked how ordinary citizens could get involved in science education, Nemer cited several initiatives across the country.

“Citizens’ participation in science is gaining momentum. So one thing people can do is get informed and get involved,” Nemer wrote in an email to the Fulcrum. “There are many great science educational facilities across the country, from the Montréal Science Centre … to our many science museums here in Ottawa.”

She encourages parents and caretakers to find ways to integrate science into their children’s development through daily activities, hands-on learning, and promoting a group dialogue to discuss and encourage scientific thinking.“People should seek out science in their communities, and talk to the scientists that are reaching out to the public.”

Nemer also highlighted many of the initiatives at the U of O that aim to aid young entrepreneurs and researchers, such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and the Start-Up Garage.

Nemer commented that the university has taken great strides in recent years to make sure that students and faculty have the infrastructure and resources they need to be successful in industry and academia.

Ultimately, Nemer stressed that science should not be confined to the classroom. It should be a hands on part of a modern lifestyle for everyone. She hopes that her role as Chief Science Advisor will aid the government in enacting policies that will make Canada’s youth engaged and innovative for decades to come.