Lieutenant Governor champions empowerment through science


Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell works with Perimeter to support education and equality in science.

When Elizabeth Dowdeswell became the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, she broke with tradition: instead of immediately declaring a focus area for her mandate as the Queen’s representative in the province, she instead set out to listen to the stories, concerns, and ideas of Ontarians. The themes that emerged were ones of storytelling, social cohesion and sustainability, and Ontario’s place in the world. 
 
As Canadians have looked back and forward during this sesquicentennial year, she said, it’s clear that scientific literacy is an essential component of a stable and successful society. With that in mind, Dowdeswell engaged with the Perimeter community twice this year to get a better sense of the issues affecting scientists and teachers.
 
In July, Dowdeswell – who worked as a teacher and university instructor long before she became Lieutenant Governor – met with participants in Perimeter’s EinsteinPlus program for high school teachers. She spent the morning with 44 educators as they playfully grappled with ways to understand, then teach, quantum mechanics, general relativity, and more. 
 
“One of the reasons I came was to thank these teachers for what they are doing, and also to encourage them to keep doing it, because scientific literacy is so important,” Dowdeswell said. 
 
“It is fundamental to our growth and maturity as a country. It’s not that kids will necessarily grow up doing some science, although some will – and very effectively. It’s that the whole process of science is one of critical thinking, of problem solving – a process that is applicable to any number of future careers and just involvement as a citizen.”
 
That visit to Perimeter inspired Dowdeswell to invite a group of Perimeter researchers, staff, and Leadership Council members to visit her at Queen’s Park in November for a private discussion on the advancement of women in science. 
 
Perimeter guests were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Legislative Assembly and a crash course on our provincial and federal political systems (which proved fascinating to many of PI’s international scientists) before engaging in dialogue with the Lieutenant Governor, who invited them to share their experiences as women in science. 
 
The conversation spanned a range of topics, including the feeling of “impostor syndrome” that plagues many scientists, the importance of having women as role models, and the effects of diversity on scientific research. 
 
“This was such a wonderful opportunity to be with a group of women who are associated with science, to talk about the little things that matter and the big things that matter,” said Dowdeswell. “It ranged all the way from what we need to think about with respect to our education system and how we approach science as individuals, but most of all it was just an informal opportunity for people to tell me their stories.”
 
For some researchers, having a prominent government official take an active interest in the affairs of scientists was a rare but welcome experience. “Inviting academics here, and being curious about what they have to say – I have never seen this anywhere,” said Emanuela Dimastrogiovanni, an Emmy Noether Visiting Fellow at Perimeter.  
 
Dowdeswell sees part of her role as Lieutenant Governor to be the province’s “storyteller-in-chief,” and she intends to keep conversations about diversity and education in science flowing. “I always love to come to Perimeter because it’s one of those places that is full of wonder, full of intense activity, bright and engaging minds in a magnificent space,” she said in July. 
 
“A place like Perimeter illustrates Ontario in the world so well. It’s a place that attracts the best, a place dedicated to improving humanity – what could be better than that?”
 
– Colin Hunter and Stephanie Keating
 
 

FURTHER EXPLORATION:

  • The Lieutenant Governor’s 150 Stories, a book of images and brief articles chronicling the scientific, social, and cultural achievements that exemplify Ontario, is freely available online. Explore them all at arts.lgontario.ca/canada150.
 

About Perimeter Institute

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 
 

http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/

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“A place like Perimeter illustrates Ontario in the world so well. It’s a place that attracts the best, a place dedicated to improving humanity – what could be better than that?”

 

– Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell