Aug. 31, 2020
For Immediate Release
WATERLOO – Shohini Ghose, professor of Physics and Computer Science at Wilfrid Laurier University, has been awarded the Ontario Chair for Women in Science and Engineering by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). In collaboration with her fellow chairs in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, the Prairies, British Columbia and Yukon, Ghose will lead a national and regional effort to increase the participation and retention of women in science and engineering.
An accomplished quantum physicist whose current research focuses on quantum information science, Ghose has been a long-time champion for women in the STEM fields. In 2012, she founded the Laurier Centre for Women in Science (WinS), an organization with a mission to build a strong community for women in science through research, communication and action.
“Dr. Ghose has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of women in science, as evidenced by this national recognition of her leadership in the field,” said Jonathan Newman, vice-president: research at Laurier. “This is an incredibly competitive position to be chosen for and it speaks volumes that Dr. Ghose was selected as the Ontario Chair for Women in Science and Engineering. It is a great honour for Laurier to host this chair and to support Dr. Ghose in her work.”
The five-year chair appointment will provide Ghose with significant research funding and a network of collaborators across Canada as she works to develop and implement a communication and networking strategy to enhance national and provincial opportunities for women in science and engineering. Several local organizations are officially partnering with Ghose to support the chair program including NXM Labs, The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Conestoga College and Communitech.
“I am thrilled to be collaborating with NSERC and the other institutions in the program because we all have different resources, expertise and access to communities,” said Ghose. “We have been trying for a long time to build a more inclusive environment in science but things are slow and somehow change is not happening. We have to reach broadly across communities and this kind of program allows us to scale up what we’ve been doing at WinS to have a larger impact.”
Ghose and her colleagues at WinS have been focused on creating systemic change, which she sees as a crucial paradigm shift from many historical approaches to encouraging women in STEM.
“We don’t need to build interest in science – women are very interested in science,” said Ghose. “The data shows that we need to address structural barriers, systemic problems and cultural attitudes. One of our goals at WinS has always been to shift away from focusing only on common fixes such as providing professional development for women, mentoring and helping with work-life balance. Those efforts are certainly important, but they’re all about adapting to a system that needs to be changed.”
Ghose points to Laurier’s participation in the Government of Canada’s Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canada program, which has a mandate to reduce barriers that underrepresented groups may experience in post-secondary research, as an example of the policy-level changes she hopes to advance.
“Laurier has always supported WinS and allowed me to focus on gender issues while still continuing my other research in quantum computing,” said Ghose. “That support for our vision has been wonderful. Being at Laurier has also been great because of the student community. Some of our best events, best conversations and greatest impacts are because of our students, who are always very engaged in anything to do with activism and social change. That has been fantastic and I really look forward to continuing that.”
In addition to her faculty position at Laurier, Ghose is president of the Canadian Association of Physicists, a fellow at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the first Canadian member of the Working Group on Women in Physics of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. In 2017, Ghose was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists and in 2018 received a TED Senior Fellowship. Ghose is also a popular speaker and a co-author of Canada’s bestselling undergraduate astronomy textbook.
“It is a great honour to be selected for this chair and it is also a great responsibility to be involved in large-scale change across the country,” said Ghose. “I wish we were at a point where these programs are not even necessary, but until that time I am excited to work with all of the other amazing chairs to build something that will eventually lead us to have no need for this program.”
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