Myrna Simpson

From the Campsite to the Chem Lab

What happens when you combine a love of chemistry with a love of the great outdoors? She's finding out right now!


Myrna Simpson is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto. We asked her everything from why she became a scientist to what’s on her playlist 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 inspired you to become a scientist?
I have always loved chemistry. I became fascinated with it in junior high and high school and I was lucky enough to have great teachers early on. I also loved the outdoors – biking, camping, hiking, backpacking, canoeing – you name it! After I finished my undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the University of Alberta, I wasn’t sure what to do next so I spent 1 year working as an Analytical Chemist. During that time, I looked at different options for graduate school and this is when I found Environmental Chemistry, which was a relatively new area of research at that time. I felt like I had won the lottery because I could combine my love of the environment and chemistry to really do something meaningful.  So I signed up for a PhD and never looked back!

What advice would you give young researchers?
Believe in yourself and don’t give up on something just because it is challenging.  Find something that you are passionate about and just go for it!

What do you read?
A lot of scientific articles. I also enjoy reading the newspaper and biographies of famous historical figures. I am half way through the Game of Thrones books, too.

What’s on your playlist?
I love all sorts of music so my Ipod has everything from ABBA to ZZTop. Coldplay, REM, and Pearl Jam are some of my favorite groups.

If you could meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Marie Curie! She was a pioneer in so many ways. Truly a remarkable person and scientist.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
I don’t want to do anything else (well, maybe play in the NHL but my slap shot isn’t good enough).