Elizabeth Edwards

Summers at the Lake Lead to Marine Ecosystems Research

'Childhood memories inspired me to work on preserving clean water and healthy ecosystems.'


Elizabeth Edwards is a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto. We asked her everything from why she became a scientist to what she is reading 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 researcher?
For sure it was my Parents. They were both Professors. They emphasized how things are linked together, and how one thing leads to the next. I loved to figure things out logically. We spent a lot of time at a very rustic cottage on a lake in Ontario with no running water, no electricity. We had to learn how to build things simply. The cottage also inspired me to work on preserving clean water and healthy ecosystems, as we enjoyed it so much.

What do you like most about your work?
Finding the answer or a solution to a problem or question with others.

What do you envision in the future of your field?
A much better understanding of the role of the many microbiomes on our planet, particularly in mitigating pollution and disease.

How will your research make a difference in people’s lives?
Perhaps in providing some idea of the vital role of microbes in cleaning the environment and some applications where we can harness these for sustainability? Microbes are our friends.

And that preservation or restoration of clean water resources must always be top of mind.

What advice would you give to young researchers?
Just get on with it. Follow your hunches.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
I dislike this question… I have been helped and sustained by family, friends and co-workers, and provided with all the support anyone could ever wish for every step of the way, all of my life. I do not feel I have achieved much given my situation. If anything I have ever done has ever inspired or helped someone less fortunate, I would consider that my greatest achievement. In fact, there is no such thing as a greatest achievement. Every little thing contributes. I think kind words are most enabling.

What do you read?
When I’m not desperately trying to make my way through the ever-growing volumes of scientific literature or an overdue review…I read… a bit of non-fiction on the history of science, and then the occasional page-turner or best seller. I loved the Harry Potter series when my kids were into it, too.

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
I would like to fly.

What’s on your playlist?

If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be? 
Rosalind Franklin.

If you could do any profession other than your own, what would it be?
I would like to be a carpenter, house builder, or boat builder with all the lovely wood working tools.

What do you like to do for fun?
I play ice hockey in a recreational league, I like to ski and hike.