Fiona McNeill

Where Few Women Have Gone Before

McMaster University’s Professor Fiona McNeill shares a little of her life outside the lab.


Fiona McNeill is a Professor of Medical Physics and Applied Radiation Sciences at McMaster University. 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?
Star Trek. I’m not kidding. I started watching that show when I was six years old and the themes of science and exploration spoke to me – and I was in love with Captain Kirk. It probably didn’t hurt that I had a Dad who was a scientist and who had strong opinions that girls should be encouraged in the sciences.

My favourite thing about being a scientist is that I am never bored. Even If I get stuck at an airport or have a long car ride, I always have something to think about.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Showing that women exposed to high levels of lead go through menopause early is the research that I think is important. The health of women specifically  is often not considered – I am proud of the fact that we brought a significant women’s health issue to light.

What do you read?
Mystery and history. Bloody death and plague are fascinating.

What’s on your playlist?
A weird mix – Queen, Bowie, Mozart’s Requiem, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and some Travis.

If you could meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
I have been fascinated recently with the period of history where alchemy started to transform into something we recognize as modern science. So hanging out with alchemists at the court of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, would be something that I would like to do.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
Having the talent to be a director of Marvel movies looks like a lot of fun!

What advice would you give young researchers?
Do the research you find interesting. If you find your passion, the rest of your career will fall into place.

Want to learn more about Prof. McNeill’s research on measuring our exposure to toxic metals? Catch her Orange Chair Interview.