Keith Pardee

If You’re Not Having Fun, You’re Doing It Wrong

Whether he's baking bread with his kids, doing carpentry work or building molecular machines, the enthusiasm level is always kept up.


Keith Pardee is an Assistant Professor at the Leslie Dan School of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. We asked him everything from what he likes most about being a scientist to what he does for fun 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 scientist?
There are several things about being a scientist that makes it my dream job. While it takes long hours, the days fly by doing what I love. It is rewarding to conceive, design and build molecular machines that could improve the lives of others or the world we live in. The opportunity to pass this enthusiasm for science and synthetic biology along to a new generation of researchers is also a great pleasure.

What advice would you give young researchers?
My PhD supervisor, Aled Edwards, once told me “if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!” This is great advice. Research can be difficult, but having great colleagues and collaborators is key to pushing through. Stay flexible, constantly evaluate and change course when the writing is on the wall.

What are you reading right now? 
I’m really enjoying Regenesis, by George Church and Ed Regis. The books that first inspired me were by Wade Davis and David Suzuki. Of course I always check out the constant stream of exciting new research coming through Reddit and other online tools. My wife teases me for always coming in the door holding a rolled-up article that I read on the walk home from the subway.

What do you like to do for fun? 
Spending time with my family is the best. I have two young sons, ages 3 and 5, and in the last few weeks we’ve baked bread, taken apart and are fixing up an antique desk, and spent lots of time outside hiking and exploring nature.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
A carpenter! I love working with my hands and enjoying the satisfaction of building something useful. I actually went to carpentry school and built/renovated houses for several years before graduate school. The process of breaking down steps in a big project is actually very similar to how we design and build our molecular tools in the lab.

Aside from things for your survival, what item would you most want to have with you on a deserted island? 
Snorkel and fins!

Interested in learning more about Professor Pardee’s work? Read our blog post on the production of biomolecules on demand.