Gary Bader

‘Find the Science That Excites You’

When he isn't discovering unexpected ways to treat cancer, he's off exploring the zoos and streetcars of the world with his family.


Gary Bader is a Professor at U of T’s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. We asked about everything from what he likes about being a researcher to what he would bring to a deserted island in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What do you like most about being a researcher?
The endless excitement of discovery. My computational biology lab tries to map and understand how genetic mutations can cause disease and how to treat these. For instance, we worked with neurosurgeons Michael Taylor and Peter Dirks at the Hospital for Sick Children and discovered that a drug originally created for blood diseases could successfully treat a previously untreatable type of childhood brain cancer.

I’m always excited to see new data and results – what new things can we learn today? Fortunately, constantly improving technology, especially in genomics and computer science, is exponentially improving discovery power every day.

What advice would you give young researchers?
Find the science that excites you, that you want to think about all the time, and devote yourself to it. Learn everything about it and focus on solving the most important problems in that field.

What are you reading right now?
Mostly bedtime books to my little kids. But next on my list is ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari.

What do you like to do for fun?
Exploring the world with my family. This mostly involves my kids’ two favourite activities: going to zoos and riding public transit in far-flung cities (most recently Prague and Budapest).

If you could do any profession other than your own, what would it be?
I would love to use data science to revolutionize the way the education system works; to create the field of “precision education” in much the same way that “precision medicine” works. When I had free time (before kids), I wrote about this on my blog.

Aside from things for your survival, what item would you most want to have with you on a deserted island?
An awesome live music band.

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