Earlier this month, U of T’s Molly Shoichet was appointed to the Government of Ontario’s newly created position of Chief Scientist. Currently a University Professor in Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and a director at the Institute for Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, Shoichet will begin her new role in January.
Shoichet will be responsible for advising Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on science-based policies. “As we tackle some of today’s biggest challenges, science plays an increasingly vital role in helping governments make informed decisions,” said Wynne in a press release.
The recruitment of a Chief Scientist is part of Ontario’s five-year Business Growth Initiative, which aims to accelerate Ontario’s knowledge-based economy through innovation; $650 million has been committed to the initiative.
Part of Shoichet’s role as Chief Scientist will be to help create science-based jobs and economic strategies for the province. Linked to this is Ontario’s plan to increase the number of students graduating from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines by 25 per cent over the next five years.
The decision to create a Chief Scientist position for Ontario was first announced by Wynne in June 2016. Part of the recruitment process involved an online consultation with both the scientific community and the public to determine the skills and qualifications a Chief Scientist should possess.
Among many other attributes, the feedback from the online consultation suggested that the Chief Scientist should have a strong academic record, familiarity with government policy, and an understanding of the Ontario research system.
“The [Chief Scientist] should… have an unwavering desire to see Ontario become a preeminent location for scientific research and innovation,” said one online respondent in a sentiment echoed by many who participated in the consultation.
Described by Minister of Research, Innovation, and Science Reza Moridi as “one of the top biomedical scientists in the country,” Shoichet certainly fits this description. Shoichet has both academic and industry-based experience with past positions held at Brown University, the matREGEN Corporation, CytoTherapeutics Incorporated, and others.
Shoichet’s research on tissue regeneration and drug delivery has earned her the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering and the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour. She is also the only person to be a Fellow of 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. At U of T, she holds the highest faculty distinction of University Professor, a title shared by less than two per cent of the university’s faculty.
“Scientists right here in Ontario are doing amazing research that is fundamental to our progress and prosperity,” said Wynne. “I look forward to her thought leadership and advice on how we can strengthen the research and innovation happening across our province.”