Mona Nemer named Canada’s top scientist

Posted on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In a research lab, Mona Nemer looks at test results with a student.

Mona Nemer in a uOttawa lab alongside PhD candidate Jamie Whitcomb. Photo: Bonnie Findley

After serving as a catalyst for discovery at the University of Ottawa as vice-president, research, Dr. Mona Nemer will now play a key role for all of the country’s scientists.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced Nemer’s appointment as Canada’s chief science adviser. In a press release issued Tuesday, the prime minister said that “Dr. Nemer brings a wealth of expertise to the role. Her advice will be invaluable and inform decisions made at the highest levels. I look forward to working with her to promote a culture of scientific excellence in Canada.”

Jacques Frémont, president of the University, congratulated the new appointee. “Dr. Nemer left an enduring mark on the University of Ottawa. Her incessant passion and work to promote research drove our university towards excellence. Seeing her devote this same energy in service of the Canadian scientific community pleases me immensely. This honour reflects well on all of our researchers.”

Nemer herself welcomed this prestigious appointment. “I am honoured and excited to be Canada’s Chief Science Advisor. I am very pleased to be representing Canadian science and research – work that plays a crucial role in protecting and improving the lives of people everywhere. I look forward to advising the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science and working with the science community, policy makers, and the public to make science part of government policy making.”

Mona Nemer

Mona Nemer. Photo: Dave Weatherall

Nemer’s appointment is the result of a selection process launched by Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan in December 2015, when the government of Canada established the position of a chief science adviser reporting to the prime minister and the minister of science. A similar position had existed in the federal government between 2004 and 2008.

The main responsibility of the chief science adviser will be to advise the government on how to ensure that scientific work carried out by the government is accessible to the population, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work and that scientific analysis is taken into account in government decision making. Nemer will also offer impartial advice on important issues for Canada with a science and research component.

Nemer served as vice-president, research, for 11 years, until June 30 of this year. The second person to hold this position in the University’s history, Nemer was responsible for many achievements: the Advanced Research Complex, the future STEM Hall, interdisciplinary research centres like the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Institute for Science, Society and Policy, and the relaunch of University of Ottawa Press.

Nemer was also behind the creation of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which provides undergraduates with many opportunities for research, and an initiative to encourage women in the STEM fields. In doing so, she brought down barriers to the research aspirations of youth.

As a champion of research in all its forms, she helped open uOttawa up to the world by creating strategic alliances with research institutions in France, South America and Germany (with the Max Planck Institute), and most recently, with universities in China. This invaluable contribution has significantly boosted the University’s reputation and world rankings.

That said, Nemer didn’t put away her microscope when she became vice-president. Indeed, she and her team actively pursued cardiac research, which was rewarded with the discovery of a new gene linked to hypertension in November 2015.

Related stories:

Mona Nemer: an advocate for research

Unlocking the heart’s genetic secrets

 

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