Biodiversity PhD candidate Grace Murphy realizes the power of mentorship
“I was so scared,” says 25-year-old Grace Murphy about starting her PhD. Having jumped directly from her undergraduate degree in marine biology at Halifax’s Dalhousie University into doctoral studies, the softspoken Windsor, Ontario, native credits support and encouragement from her research supervisor, Dr. Tamara Romanuk, for where she is today.
As early as her undergraduate days, recalls Murphy, “[She] was always pushing me to publish papers and present at conferences. In the beginning I was full of selfdoubt, but eventually I came to realize, Wow, I can do this.” Today, Murphy is an accomplished scholar with a first-author paper under her belt – and a second under review – and she’s doing fascinating work investigating human caused disturbances in biodiversity. Through a collection of rock-pool samples from around the world, she’s able to theorize potential environmental scenarios, such as moose in Nova Scotia facing extinction due to habitat loss.
An award recipient in this year’s L’Oréal Canada For Women in Science program with the support of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Murphy received a $5,000 Mentor Fellowship to help her pursue her research project. In addition, she will participate in L’Oreal Canada’s National Girls Mentoring Program launched in partnership with Actua, Canada’s leading science, engineering, technology and mathematics outreach program for youth.
The goal of the program is to develop a network of mentors from the Canadian scientific community who will share their experiences with young girls aged 6 to 17 during summer camps, clubs and workshops. “We know how important role models can be to young girls and by participating in the mentoring program, these promising women scientists become an inspiration to the younger generation,” says Teresa Menna, Corporate Communications Manager, L’Oréal Canada.
“Not every girl has the chance to meet people doing science. That’s why I think L’Oréal Canada’s mentoring program is important – it brings the scientists to the girls, where they can meet and interact with them.”
Murphy herself looks forward to becoming a mentor to other women in science. “In the real world…you have to work with everybody. But it’s nice sometimes to create a setting where girls don’t have to be shy and can benefit from positive role models. I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for [Romanuk], I wouldn’t be here.”