Ask Women Anything: STEM panel discussion


Another successful AWA with Media Action! And what an evening it was, with a killer STEM panel and an engaged audience of all ages. Our four guests, Dr. Sue Twine (NRC), Dr. Winnie Ye (Carleton Univ), Vicki Iverson (CTO Iversoft) and Dr. Katey Rayner (U Ottawa Heart Institute) shared wisdom on their career paths and the excitements and challenges they faced along the way.

Dr. Sue Twine discussed the way in which development in the world of science can be very focused on the self, one’s own achievements and career goals. While a competitive atmosphere can foster this attitude, she said that one of the greatest joys of her career has been sharing her achievements with others and witnessing her colleagues’ successes. In her work at the National Research Council, the goal is to develop and make accessible drugs for those who need them. Sharing this goal, and working and succeeding as a team creates a truly rewarding atmosphere, she said. Dr. Twine finds it encouraging to see students whom she mentored making strides in science; some now have faculty positions across the world. She urges other women to surge forward — to take a career path that may be non-linear, or not entirely planned out, but that will lead to a rewarding life in their field.


Dr. Winnie Ye acknowledged that she has never been able to strike a work-life balance, but didn’t frame this as a downfall. She shared that she had recently been congratulated on being a successful “mid-career” person, which prompted the realization that she was, in fact, mid-career. In her junior career she had never been able to pause, it was expected that constant work be the focus. But she loved the work and the pace. Now, being mid-career, the hard work has some payoffs, and she can take some moments to herself. But Dr. Ye reminds us that she hasn’t worked hard so she can take time off – she built her career because she loves what she does, so she has built her life around it.  She said, “I choose this life.”

In the same vein, Vicki Iverson shared her experience building a company from the ground up. She put in the very long hours for eight years and she has seen her company take on new life. She has gathered a capable team whom she knows can take care of business should she need to step away. She has children, but “when you run your own company, there’s no mat leave,” so she remains consistently involved in her business. She values the respect she feels in her workplace and the moments she spends problem solving with her team.

Dr. Katey Rayner explained that because her work is building a research program, she consistently has to hire and train interns, and ensure her team can “woman the ship”. She called attention to the inconsistency between men and women being asked when they would “run off and have babies.” She asked, “Why can’t this be my life, and my family for now?” Dr. Rayner encourages all women to be confident that things will work out, that if they don’t like what they’re doing, they have the freedom to change paths.


When asked about the challenges of working in a male-dominated field, each woman expressed in her own way that they had not felt overwhelming marginalization as a woman in science, although they know the field is biased based on sheer numbers and anecdotal experiences. Dr. Ye, when asked about female competitors in the field, responded: “I look forward to competition!” — she has been the only woman faculty member in electrical engineering at Carleton since 2009.

Our panelists did some myth-breaking around the “leaky pipeline” theory, which suggests women are leaving the field to raise children. They pointed instead to a hard bias in the field, which excludes women from conferences and opportunities to share their science, and creates the impression that their work is not influential in the field. Ms. Iverson said that when she is invited to speak at panels, she no longer wonders if it’s because she fills some kind of affirmative action quota. She says that she takes every opportunity to demonstrate her success in her field. All panelists agreed that visibility and representation go a long way to fostering successful women in STEM.

Media Action would like to thank all of our panelists for joining us, and Bar Robo for hosting in such an inviting space.

Ask Women Anything: STEM panel discussion

Presented by Media Action, Ask Women Anything is a series of unique, intimate evenings that give Ottawa’s most influential women a chance to share their thoughts and answer your questions without the filter of the media. Come on out on April 27, 2017, for a special edition #WomenInSTEM panel discussion!

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields are largely dominated by men, but we are bringing together four fantastic women who excel in their chosen fields! Take a look at their bios below:


Katey Rayner is an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in the Department of Biochemistry in Ottawa, Canada where she directs the Cardiometabolic microRNA Laboratory. Dr. Rayner obtained her BSc from the University of Toronto, and her PhD from the University of Ottawa. Dr. Rayner’s doctoral work focused on the role of hormones, heat shock proteins and macrophage foam cells in the development of atherosclerosis. After her PhD, she pursued a postdoctoral fellowship first at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital then at New York University School of Medicine where Dr. Rayner helped to discover a role for microRNAs, specifically microRNA-33, in the regulation of HDL and its atheroprotective effects.

Since establishing her lab at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Rayner’s research program focuses on novel mechanisms that underlie the inflammatory processes of plaque progression and vulnerability, with a specific focus the intersection between macrophage inflammation and microRNAs as drivers of disease. Her group has uncovered a novel role for microRNA control of mitochondrial respiration in macrophage cholesterol efflux, which is aberrantly expressed in human atherosclerotic plaques. Dr. Rayner’s research also examines how extracellular microRNAs are mediating the progression of atherosclerosis in both human and animal models. More recently, her group uncovered a role for programmed necrosis in the development of unstable plaques in mice and how this can get targeted as a therapeutic and diagnostic biomarker in humans.

Dr. Rayner serves on the editorial boards of Circulation Research and Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB) where she also serves as the Social Media Editor. She serves on peer review panels for granting agencies CIHR, NIH and Heart & Stroke Foundation and is the Chair of the Early Career Committee of the Council of ATVB at the American Heart Association. Dr. Rayner has been recognized with awards such as the American Heart Association’s Irvine H Page Young Investigator Award, the Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Innovation Ontario, and New Investigator Awards from both Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Dr. Rayner’s research is currently funded by a Foundation Grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the National Institutes of Health.


Dr. Winnie Ye is a Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Nano-scale IC Design for Reliable Opto-Electronics and Sensors. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Electronics at Carleton University. Her expertise is in silicon photonics and its applications in biophotonics, telecommunications, and renewable energy.

Dr. Ye received her B.Eng. degree in Electrical Engineering from Carleton University. She then studied Photonics and received her M.A.Sc. and Ph.D degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto and Carleton University, respectively. After working with the Silicon Photonics/Optoelectronics team at the National Research Council (NRC) during her Ph.D. program, she joined Prof. Lionel Kimerling’s laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Prof. Kenneth Crozier’s laboratory at the Harvard University as a NSERC postdoctoral fellow to work on opto-electronic integration and silicon nanofabrication. Dr. Ye returned to Canada in 2009.

She is the recipient of the Early Researcher Award (ERA) from the Ministry of Innovation Ontario in 2012, and the Research Achievement Award from Carleton University in 2013. She has also been the Chair of the IEEE Women in Engineering (WiE) Ottawa Chapter since 2012.


Dr. Twine received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University of Southampton, UK and completed post-doctoral studies in Biophysics and Proteomics/Microbiology. She is currently completing an MBA with Heriot-Watt University. During her career, Dr. Twine has held positions in both academia and government research and technology organizations, focusing on vaccine and drug development. She is currently Section Head for the Analytics group at the National Research Council, with research spanning bioanalysis, advanced mass spectrometry characterization, and NMR. Dr Twine has authored more than 40 research publications and is editor of two books.


Vicki Iverson received a Bachelor of Mathematics in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo, and a Masters of Science specializing in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Toronto. Vicki worked at several companies in the software field, including Sybase and Apple, before co-founding Iversoft in 2009 with her husband.

Iversoft specializes in mobile app development, having published over 100 apps for their clients, as well as building 15 successful mobile game titles. Vicki was the primary developer behind Iversoft’s early work, and has continued to build and train a highly proficient technical team. Today, as CTO, Vicki continues to drive the technology side of Iversoft’s 25-member team.


Pressing international business priorities require Suzanne Grant’s presence and she will not be available in Ottawa at this time, we thank Dr. Winnie Ye for stepping in at such short notice.