Science & Tech

Soapbox Science banner and guest speaker
Soapbox Science banner and guest speaker. Image: Genevieve Gariepy, Elie Ndala/Provided
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A previous Fulcrum article featured and introduced Soapbox Science. In recent years, the team hosted their event completely online. However, as pandemic restrictions lifted, event organizers saw a way to bring science back to the streets of Ottawa. 

On Sept. 24, 2022, Soapbox Science took to the ByWard Market to engage the public in science right here in our very own city. The Fulcrum spoke with event organizers Janelle Fournier, a doctoral candidate in the faculty of education at the University of Ottawa, Amy Johnston, a U of O Ph.D. candidate in clinical epidemiology, and Pooja Shree Mishra, a science analyst with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“Today’s event is called Soapbox Science Ottawa. It’s the third event in Ottawa that’s taking place, and  it’s all about showcasing the work of amazing female and non-binary scientists and engineers in STEM … Members of the public in the market here today are interacting with scientists and engaging in conversations with them regarding their work,” explained Fournier.

Johnston added, “It just gives people an opportunity to interact with scientists in a platform or space where it’s just totally accessible. For some, they may not have opportunities otherwise to do so. So that’s what I really like about Soapbox Science is it just brings literally bring science to the streets. It’s great to see all types of people engaged in the event — we have people of all ages, ethnicity and gender. “

Guest Speakers

In terms of guests, “we have scientists from all over, we’ve got some some field professionals and then we also have some uOttawa and Carleton professors as well as speakers from the public and academic sector. It’s great that we have a variety of experts to speak with who all work in different fields from biology to physics.” added Johnston. 

Guest speaker Professor Stefanie Czischek
Image: Guest speaker Professor Stefanie Czischek/Provided.

One of the first speakers the Fulcrum met with was Leah Kristufek, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Ottawa. Her research focuses on studying deteriorated concrete from a recently disassembled bridge located in Québec, Montréal. She’s interested in determining the factors that cause the iron framework within the concrete to deteriorate and different mitigation techniques.

Next door to Kristufek was Adèle Bourgeois, a research mathematician currently working as an academic consultant. Throughout her career, she has focused on a variety of topics related to applied mathematics by studying population dynamics in addition to pure mathematics on the representation theory of p-adic groups.

“The message I want to talk about today is how it’s really important to protect your private information online. The way that we do this is by creating really hard math problems. So the idea is, for instance, if you’re using online banking, you might think I have a password, so I’m okay. But really, what’s important is the layers of security that are between you and the bank that makes sure that your communication can’t be intercepted,” she explained.

Bourgeois continued, “We do that by putting these really hard math problems in there. So that the harder the problem is, that the more difficult it is for someone to solve and gain your personal information. So that’s what my research is all about. Just creating these really hard math problems and trying to be creative and think outside the box. So we are doing some cryptography, I specialize more in pure mathematics. So instead of using numbers, we work with more abstract objects. The idea is the harder it is to understand the better it is for you, because it means that people can’t hack your information.”

Another speaker in the market was Genevieve Gariepy, who received her bachelor’s in Engineering Physics and went on to study ultrafast optics for her master’s at the University of Ottawa, and Ph.D. at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Currently, Gariepy works as a Senior Systems Engineer at ABB. We discussed the planning involved in sending objects to space — specifically an optical instrument which would observe Earth from space, for applications such as greenhouse gas detection.

The full list of speakers in attendance can be found here.

Shree Mishra concluded, “The mission of Soapbox is twofold. It’s to promote the work that they’re doing, but to also let folks know, young and old, that they can get into STEM — it’s not specific to a gender, and really everybody can love and do wonderful science.”

For more information on Soapbox Science Ottawa, visit their website here.


  • Emma Williams was the Fulcrum's science & tech editor for the 2021-22 publishing year. Emma is a passionate third-year environmental science student at the University of Ottawa. As a returning editor she hopes to continue sharing her love for science with the U of O community. When she isn’t studying, she can be found outdoors hiking in Gatineau Park, reading or biking with friends.