Rhonda McEwan is a Canada Research Chair and Professor of emerging media at the University of Toronto. Her research explores information practices involving new media technologies. We asked her about everything from her love of Trinbagonian food to her admiration for Hedy Lamarr in the 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?
Academic researchers have the privilege to ask and answer questions that are of fundamental importance to our world, without the pressures of quarterly fiscal timelines, the need to conform to current ideologies, nor predefined beneficiaries. While there are always constraints, having had a previous career where my analytical direction was beyond my control, I truly treasure the freedom to beat my own drum.
What advice would you give young researchers?
To my younger self I would now say that there is immense value in learning research skills from more senior faculty/researchers. While we all bring new strengths to the practice of research, there is a canon of knowledge that can shape your personal growth as a person of inquiry. So for younger researchers, I recommend humility and a continuous quest for self-improvement.
What inspired you to become a researcher?
Every time I noticed questions lurking unacknowledged and unanswered on the side of what I was working on, I could not stop thinking about them. I became a researcher to be able to go after them. Often, they are the most important ones.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to unplug and (try) to have no-thinking vacations. To rest my mind and restore. Sometimes that involves really lower ranked movies/series/books.
What’s your favourite cuisine?
Trinbagonian—flavour capital of the world. Everything from Trinidad and Tobago is amazing.
If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
Hmmmm. Perhaps a fiction author.
If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Hedy Lamarr—Hedy lived a life with so many facets. Many would remember that she fled a life of wealth to be an actress. But I learned about her because it was her work during WWII on information security that led to breakthroughs for many technologies that we use today: mobile communication, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cryptography.