Seven Questions With Celine Nadon

Celine Nadon (PhD) is the Chief of Enteric Diseases Surveillance, Outbreak Detection and Response at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory. She leads national surveillance programs for infectious diseases transmitted by food and water, and her laboratory continuously monitors for and investigates outbreaks of foodborne disease using cutting edge technology.

She specializes in the practical application of science and technology to solve public health problems, and in communicating science to those who need to know about it (a.k.a., everyone!). We asked her a few questions before she takes the stage on June 26, check it out:

Why are you excited to speak at TEDxWinnipeg?

I am thrilled to be a part of TEDxWinnipeg this year! To be among this group of speakers is such an honour.  There are so many cool things going on in Winnipeg, sharing and discussing ideas is a great way to showcase our city and I am excited to be a part of it. As a scientist who is committed to the importance of communicating science to the world, it doesn’t get any bigger or better than the TEDxWinnipeg stage!

Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?

I’d be interested in visiting 100 years in the future – I would love to see the solutions that the next generations come up with to solve some of the world’s problems.   Also it would be very cool to see how the next iterations of technology change our daily lives. I’m Generation X, so I remember life before smart phones, social media, or the internet. To see what comes next, to hear future generations reminisce “remember when we had those crazy smart phones and twitter!?” – that would be fun.

If you could witness any historical event, which one would you choose?

It’s not really a single event, but what I would really love to do is witness some of my favourite authors while they are writing books that ended up as masterpieces.  I’m a huge reader, and books have shaped every stage of my life (fiction and literature especially). I’d love to witness the creative process that they went through, just as they were on the verge of writing things that changed the world.  Did they sense they were about to make history?

What’s your connection to Winnipeg, or Manitoba?

Born in Winnipeg and grew up in the Maples! Hanging out in Garden City Shopping Mall was THE place to be on a Friday night.  As a teenager I’d always dreamed about going to an Ivy League school. With a lot of hard work and armed with two degrees from the University of Manitoba, I made my dream come true by getting a full scholarship to study at Cornell University.  When I moved to New York to start my PhD, it was with the thought that I probably wouldn’t ever be back in Winnipeg.

I then went from New York state to Washington, D.C., spending several years there as a post-doctoral fellow for the U.S. Government.  When the time came to make my next big career move, I knew the perfect place for me was leading Canada’s foodborne disease outbreak team. And where was this? In Winnipeg!

When I came to Winnipeg to interview for the position at the National Microbiology Laboratory, I didn’t tell any of my family or friends about it, I didn’t want to get their hopes up (or mine) in case I didn’t get the job.  Some of the coolest science in the country – and in the world, actually – happens at the corner of Arlington & William. I’m very lucky to be a part of it!

How did you come up with your idea, and how did you develop it into something shareable?

First off, using cutting edge genomics technology to fight infectious diseases – there’s no way I can claim that this is my idea!

This is the hard work of many scientists from many disciplines around the world. The awesome thing about modern science is that it is so collaborative – the picture of some guy in a lab coat doing experiments all by himself is definitely NOT the way science is done anymore!

I specialize in applying technology to routine public health programs in practical ways in order to maximize its impact on people’s health, “ivory tower to the real world” style. The idea that I knew I needed to share was about taking advanced, complex research that might seem a little abstract and trying to make it work in the day-to-day. I am just one among the teams of people making this happen, but I am certainly one of its biggest cheerleaders!

I worry about some of the distrust in science that I see these days, made worse by the “fake news’ era that we seem to be in, where opinions and facts are often interchanged. Sharing how genomics technology can change the world – this is me pulling my weight, filling my responsibility as a scientist to communicate about science.

Who inspires you, and why?

During my graduate studies I attended a lecture by Jane Goodall, the famous scientist and world’s expert on chimpanzees.  The way she conveyed her passion and used personal storytelling to help us understand our environment and our impacts on it – I was completely mesmerized.

When I had the chance to meet her in person afterward, I was tongue-tied and in awe of this hero of mine. That encounter definitely shaped my own goals and career path. On the personal side, one of my biggest inspirations is my husband, Steve Shelemy.

Despite having a very successful career as an electrical engineer, he recently went back to university to pursue a true passion of his (theoretical physics and mathematics). In doing this he inspires me and shows our children that learning is something we should never stop doing! It was seeing him take action on his dreams that gave me the courage to pursue some of my own – like speaking at TEDxWinnipeg!.

What TED Talk do you think everyone should see?

Amy Cuddy’s “Your body language may shape who you are” and “The music in our genomes” by Jennifer Gardy with Peter Gregson are on my must-watch list!   I think Jennifer Gardy is one of our generation’s best science communicators, and the pairing of genomics with music is a beautiful theme. Amy Cuddy’s ideas on body language have influenced my own daily practice and how I interact with everyone around me.

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