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L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2018: Erin McConnell

Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences
McMaster University


Video Name

L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2018: Erin McConnell


NSERC Communications



Release Date

November 26, 2018


Erin M. McConnell is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Yingfu Li at McMaster University. Currently, she leads a team of researchers who are focused on the development of technologies for the detection of the pathogenic bacteria, Legionella pneumophila, in contaminated water sources. To develop these technologies Erin utilizes functional nucleic acids, a class of small, single-stranded DNA and RNA molecules which are able to specifically detect a target molecule.

Erin McConnell

So much of science is standing, you know, on the shoulders of giants. And so it's your job as a scientist to pass on your knowledge and to help teach the next generation and get them engaged. My passion really lies in using DNA nanotechnology as a tool to develop biosensors, diagnostics, therapeutics that could help solve real-world problems.

As an undergraduate student, I actually received an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award. And so it was that experience that put me in a lab with my previous supervisor, and her mentorship that helped me realize my passion for scientific research. I hope to take this research and be able to develop my own kind of research program so that eventually I would be able to have a research lab and I would be able to continue teaching and mentoring students. Mentoring is so important because teaching other people is the way that you can learn about yourself.

I think it's so humbling to be able to win this award. I think the program is so important, and the platform that they support to increase diversity and to also increase visibility of female scientists. Any advice that I would give to a young girl who's looking to get involved in science would just be to reach out and take opportunities as they come. Sometimes you have to be stubborn, sometimes you have to be persistent, but those are qualities that make an excellent scientist also. I'm an example of that; the other recipients of the award program are examples of that. There's lots of women who are in science who are successful, and I'm really hopeful for the future.