Panel 1: Challenges for Women in Physics

  • Lisa Lim-Cole, Durham District School Board

    LisaLimColeLisa Lim-Cole is currently the President of the Ontario Association of Physics Teachers.  She is a high school physics/science teacher with 14+ years of experience.  Lisa was the Head of Science at Uxbridge Secondary School and is currently on a secondment at the Durham District School Board as the Science and Technology Program Facilitator (K-12).  Lisa Lim-Cole received her undergraduate degree from McGill University in Physics and her Education degree from Queen’s University.  She is currently pursuing her Master of Education degree as a part-time student at York University with a focus on Women in Physics and STEM.  Lisa also works with Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics as the Eastern Ontario Teacher Network Coordinator and has contributed to a variety of physics teacher resources.  She has provided teacher workshops across Ontario (conferences and local training session), consults on the development of resources for teachers and facilitates teams in the development of resources for science educators K-12.  Lisa is passionate about science education and hopes that through her work, she can inspire teachers and students to become future innovators, critical thinkers and problem solvers of some of the toughest problems we face today.  Interested in helping with Physics Education?  Join the Ontario Association of Physics Teachers!

  • Mary Pugh, Department of Mathematics, University of Toronto

    Mary_head_shotMary is an applied mathematician who works with physicists, engineers, and the occasional psychologist. Her methods include applied analysis, modelling, and scientific computing. She has worked on problems such as smectic electroconvection, battery modelling, piezoelectric motors, the flow of thin liquid films under forcing, image segmentation, and parent/child attachment. As for her life before coming to the UofT…



  • Nadia Octave, CHU de Quebec

    UntitledNadia Octave is a clinical medical physicist working in radiation oncology at Hotel-Dieu de Québec, CHU de Québec who started in the physics research group in 2008. She received her master degree from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse in medical physics and her clinical training at the Curie Institute in Paris, France. Before joining the CHU de Québec team in radiation oncology, she worked at the Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou in Paris also in radiation therapy and as well as at the French-Vietnamese Hospital in Ho-Chi-Minh, Vietnam. Her research interest involves IGRT, adaptive RT, radiation protection and new clinical tools for brachytherapy. She co-founded the Student Council for the Canadian Organisation of Medical Physicists (COMP) and she just received the mandate to be the chair of the newly created COMP women committee.

Panel 2: Non-academic Career Paths for Physicists

      • Jenna McKenzie, Ronacher McKenzie Geoscience

        JennaMcKenzie_PictureJenna McKenzie is Principal Geophysicist of Ronacher McKenzie Geoscience, a consulting firm focused on integrated geoscientific interpretation for the exploration and mining industry. Jenna is passionate about exploration and has extensive field experience with ground and airborne geophysical methods in early exploration and advanced mining scenarios.

        After completing an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Toronto in 2002, Jenna worked for a number of years with De Beers Canada as a key member of the Baffin Island exploration team and the Victor Resource Extension program, in addition to assisting with numerous other exploration projects. Her transition to the consulting environment exposed her to multiple commodities and deposit types including gold, porphyry-copper, VMS, Sedex, potash and lithium.

        Jenna is a member of the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO), the Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society (KEGS) and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). She volunteers with the University of Toronto Physics Career Accelerator Program and is Conference Secretary of the upcoming decennial conference Exploration 17. She currently lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.

      • Fernanda Saraga, Scientific Insights Consulting Group

        fernandasaragaFernanda is a scientific and medical communications specialist, who has extensive experience in medical writing, developing CME course content, medical and technical marketing documents and creating engaging and informative patient-focused materials. In addition, she has expertise in writing research articles, regulatory submissions, training and education manuals and grant applications.  She has worked with a number of medical communications companies including Scientific Insights Consulting Group, CME Solutions, invivo communications, HC3 Communications and Bridge Medical Communications.

        Fernanda’s scientific experience covers a broad range of subject areas including rheumatology, hematology/oncology, respiratory conditions, psychiatry, wound care, dermatology and therapeutic medical devices. She holds a PhD in Neuroscience and an Honours BSc in Physics from the University of Toronto. She completed her Post-Doctoral fellowship in the Department of Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Toronto and has published several articles and a book chapter on the signaling properties of hippocampal interneurons.

      • Saroja Polavarapu, Environment Canada

        sarajopa_croppedSaroja is a research scientist with Environment Canada with expertise in the field of “meteorological data assimilation” which involves a combination of estimation theory with atmospheric dynamics and modeling. After completing a Ph.D. in atmospheric physics at the University of Toronto, Saroja joined Environment Canada as a post-doctoral fellow in 1990 and became an employee in 1992. Over the years her interests have involved improving aspects of data assimilation methodologies and the contexts have varied from weather forecasting to stratospheric and mesospheric dynamics and, most recently, to improving estimates of carbon fluxes between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere.

        Saroja has authored 30 papers in academic journals and has served as associate editor for the journals: Monthly Weather Review (2005), Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences (2002-6) and Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society (2010-15). As an adjunct professor at the Department of Physics of the University of Toronto, Saroja has taught three graduate courses in data assimilation and co-supervised one Ph.D. student. Saroja was honoured to receive the CMOS (Canadian Meteorology and Oceanography) President’s prize in 2005 and the Nancy B. Cutler citation of excellence from Environment Canada in 2008.  Website

 Panel 3: Making Progress: A Conversation With Leaders

      • Bryan Gaensler, Dunlap Institute, Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto

        portrait_gaensler_4_zoomProfessor Bryan Gaensler is an award-winning astronomer and author, who is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work on dying stars, interstellar magnets and cosmic explosions. A former NASA Hubble Fellow, Harvard professor and Australian Laureate Fellow, Gaensler is Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. His popular astronomy book “Extreme Cosmos” was published worldwide in 2012, and has been translated into four other languages. Image credit: Daniel Boud/University of Sydney.

      • Rebecca Ghent, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto

        UnknownRebecca Ghent is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto. She recently served as the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in the Department of Earth Sciences. She is a planetary scientist who focuses on geological processes on the terrestrial planets at a number of spatial scales. She has been a Science Team member for the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Diviner thermal mapper and the NASA OSIRIS-REx laser altimeter. She received her M.Sc. from Georgia Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. from Southern Methodist University. Prior to arriving in Toronto, Becky was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institute where she studied the planetary surfaces of the Moon, Venus and Earth using radar remote sensing.

      • Kim Strong, Department of Physics, University of Toronto

        Kim Strong

        Kimberly Strong has been a Physics Professor at the University of Toronto since 1996, and was appointed Director of the University’s new School of the Environment in July 2013. Her expertise is in atmospheric remote sounding using ground-based, balloon-borne, and satellite instruments for studies of stratospheric ozone chemistry, climate, and air quality. She is the Deputy PI and Theme Leader for the PAHA (Probing the Atmosphere of the High Arctic) network, which runs the PEARL facility on Ellesmere Island.  She is also Director of the NSERC CREATE Training Program in Arctic Atmospheric Science; founder of the University of Toronto Atmospheric Observatory; Co-I on the ACE and Odin satellite missions; and PI of the Canadian FTIR Observing Network. 

      • Li-Hong Xu, Department of Physics, University of New Brunswick


        Prof. Li Hong Xu received her Ph.D. degree in Physics in the field of High Resolution Molecular Spectroscopy in 1992 from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton (UNBF) and continued her research at UNBF as a Post-Doctoral fellow under the Networks of Centres of Excellence Program in Canada. She was then invited to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland, U.S.A., as a Research Associate working on research projects under the U.S. Department of Energy. In the fall of 1995, Dr. Xu was offered a faculty position at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John (UNBSJ) and is now a full professor since 2003. She served as the Chair of the Physical Sciences Department at UNBSJ and has been serving on various national and international committees. She participates in a number of international collaborative projects with NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) in addition to her fundamental NSERC research. She was on the Technical Advisory Board of the Canadian Space Agency and the Chair of the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) General Physics Grant Selection Committee for 2005-07 and has remained involved in various NSERC Grant Selection and Appeal Committees since. She currently serves as the Physics Evaluation Group Chair of NSERC and as a member of the Committee on Grants and Scholarships (COGS), both of which are important positions to oversee procedure and make recommendations on science policy to the government. She has just completed a three-year term as the Chair of the Committee to Encourage Women in Physics (CEWIP), a Division of the Canadian Association of Physicists, and is currently a steering committee member for the Women in Physics Conferences in Canada.

        She is a real life scientist in a SciencePower8 textbook, published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited in 1999, which is widely used a Grade 8 Science textbook in Canada. She has recently been featured in Faces of New Brunswick, a book by Keith Minchin.