Prof. Molly Shoichet

Me, Myself and Medicine

'We investigate how to get beyond treating cancer, stroke or blindness, to stop or reverse them instead.'


Molly Shoichet is a University Professor in Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, Chemistry, and Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto.  She is also Senior Advisor to the President of UofT on Science & Engineering Engagement and one of the founders of R2R!  We asked everything from why she chose her field of study 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 had a super Chemistry teacher in High School, Mr. Mallin, who inspired me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry. At MIT, I was fascinated the first time that we made a polymer in one of the advanced organic chemistry labs.  I decided to pursue a PhD, instead of an MD, because I was excited at the prospect of inventing future medicines.  This continues to be a driving force – imagining a better future.

What do you like most about being a scientist?
I love discovery – I really like finding answers to unsolved problems, I love learning and I love working with super smart and super creative people.

What do you envision in the future of your field?
Working at the intersection of engineering and medicine, we have the opportunity to envision a future of personalized medicine where strategies are designed for individuals vs. masses.

How will your research make a difference in our lives?
Whether in cancer, stroke or blindness, we are investigating strategies that will go beyond treating the symptoms of disease and instead stop it or reverse it.

What advice would you give young researchers?
Stay in the game – pursue your passions – strive to make a difference.  We need creative people working together to solve some of the biggest challenges in medicine.  Engineering is a great platform from which to engage in this field.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
In Science, my greatest achievements are in our ideas and the people with whom I work to bring these ideas to fruition.  Outside of science, my greatest achievements are in my family.

What do you read?
I enjoy reading historical fiction and about women who have made a difference – I just read the Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, which provides insight on slavery and the movement in the United States to free the slaves. It also touches on the story of bringing equal rights to women.

What’s on your Ipod? (Or if you’re like me and haven’t entered the 21st century, what records do you have?)
I have to admit that I enjoy pop music – I love singing along to tunes, but cannot hold a tune independently and I always make up my own words.  I saw Ed Sheeran in concert recently and that was a lot of fun.

If you could meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
This is a great question – it would be fascinating to meet Freud or Einstein or Picasso or Martin Luther King – people who have had such a profound influence on society.  But it would also be fascinating to meet Jesus or Mohammed and perhaps give them some context for how their ideals would be misshapen in the future and be the root of hatred and violence.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
I almost went to medical school and when I was at this fork in the road, I took the one of research.  I think that I would have been equally happy in medicine.

What do you like to do for fun?
I love being with my family – going skiing together, on bike rides together, traveling to distant lands together, discussing world issues together.