Signals Blog

Grade 9 students Aidan and Caitlin spend the day at CCRM, with a detour to the University of Toronto and Derek van der Kooy’s lab

Did you notice surprisingly young-looking employees at your workplace this week? If you’re suffering from that getting old syndrome where that kid at the cash looks 12, but is actually a 27-year-old mother of two, then you may be relieved to know that your eyes weren’t playing tricks on you.

Those were 14-year-olds in the office.

Across Canada, the first Wednesday in November is “Take Our Kids to Work Day” or #KidsToWork. Launched in 1994 by a national charity called The Learning Partnership, the goal of the event is to support “career exploration and career readiness among Canadian public school students.”

Grade 9 students accompany their parents, relatives or family friends to work, usually to learn more about a field that interests them. About 200,000 Canadian students participate every year.

So, what does this have to do with regenerative medicine? Well, surprisingly enough, scientists and engineers have kids too. This year, CCRM hosted two students who are keen to pursue careers in STEM. Full disclosure: neither is actually the son or daughter of a scientist or engineer – despite what I just said. (With such a young workforce at CCRM, there aren’t that many offspring in their teens yet.)

L-R Aidan and Anthony Eiliazadeh

Development Associate Anthony Eiliazadeh showed his cousin Aidan around, and my daughter, Caitlin, shadowed me. While Aidan and Caitlin participated in different activities at CCRM, they did spend almost two hours together in a lab on the University of Toronto campus, hearing from PhD candidate Samantha Yammine all about stem cells, neuroscience, and the different equipment that a scientist/engineer uses to conduct experiments. (Thank you again Samantha!) (CCRM has a Containment Level 2 lab, so Aidan and Caitlin won’t be allowed inside until they turn 18.)

I understand future doctor Aidan heard about Anthony’s projects, he watched some cool videos and learned what goes on at CCRM. Caitlin had a different experience while she was here. She explored whether she wants to be a scientist or an engineer.

My daughter loves math and science so I’m trying to expose her to both options as much as possible (engineering is in the lead). At CCRM, she had the opportunity to interview seven female scientists and engineers who work in different business units and each have their own reasons for their career choices. (A big thank you, again!) There were several key learnings that came out of the interviews that any budding scientist or engineer can benefit from. Here’s what I heard.

  • Having a STEM background offers many career possibilities. Four of the seven women interviewed work in our lab, one is a business analyst reviewing potential technologies for commercialization, one is a business development lead who interacts with industry and one is in quality assurance.
  • Start paying attention now to what excites and inspires you. (Write it down somewhere.) It could point you in the direction of your future studies and even a good PhD thesis.
  • Can’t decide what you like more? Do both. Anne-Marie Lavoie, Development Technologist, is actually a scientist and an engineer! She has a double major in biochemistry and chemical engineering from the University of Ottawa.
  • Regardless of your specialization, scientists study many of the same foundational courses, and the same goes for engineers. If you go in one direction during your studies and then change your mind, you can still catch up.
  • A good education never goes to waste. Even if you deviate from the traditional career path of a scientist or engineer, you can still apply what you’ve learned.
  • Academia is competitive. Publish early and publish often.
  • Academia is exciting. A project in grad school may one day become a successful company and you could end up with CEO after that PhD designation in your title.
  • Don’t be afraid to go after what you want by simply asking for it. If you want to work with a leader in your field, there’s no harm in requesting an internship. All you need is one yes.
  • Having that PhD after your name always serves you well – even if the five-year plan extends to eight! (Now my daughter is enthusiastic about getting her PhD. But my financial obligations end after undergrad, right?!)

L-R top row: Caitlin interviewing CCRM’s Shreya Shukla Phd, Anne-Marie Lavoie, Yarden Gratch and Isabelle Dalle Fusine. L-R bottom row: Irja Elliott Donaghue PhD, Aisha Yusuf, Nicole Forgione PhD and Samantha Yammine (PhD candidate)

Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at) We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.


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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.