Mandy Woodland

she/her/hers

Where you can find her: Twitter: @mandywoodland Insta: @mandland LinkedIn: mandywoodland Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mandywoodland0/

Education:

  • Memorial University, Biology, 1998
  • Completed all coursework and initial thesis for a Master of Science in Medicine but didn’t finish, left to go to law school after burning out in a toxic lab
  • J.D. from Dalhousie University, with a certificate in health law, 2006
  • Saint Mary’s University, Masters of Technology Entrepreneurship & Innovation, 2015

Current Job Title: Co-Founder

What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue?

I think being generally very curious – about how the world works, about nature and life and humans – first got me interested in science. The love of reading my parents instilled in me definitely fuelled that curiosity and I always wanted to learn more. Science was a means to fuel that learning addiction. In jr. high school our science teacher started an after-school club and we did so many more experiments, dissections, etc that opened my eyes to things we didn’t get to experience in class. I’ve followed my curiosity through life – which meant pursuing a general biology degree, then graduate work in molecular biology (I studied vitamin D and placental calcium transfer), work in cancer research, health law, and then eventually into technology.

Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career.

My junior high school science teacher and high school biology teacher were both big influences. They both deeply loved science and fed my curiosity immensely. In undergrad, Dr. Jean Finney-Crawley was a major inspiration – she had high expectations while also being kind and encouraging. Her field work was inspiring and exciting, and expanded my horizons in terms of the possibilities a biology degree could bring. The field courses at the Memorial Biology Dept, offered in Gros Morne National Park, helped me develop as a researcher and made me, as a student, feel like a real researcher. No other experiences have been as impactful as working in the field, particularly with that group.

I’ve had the good fortune of being helped and inspired by so many along the way, now 20+ years post-undergrad. Dr. Michael Hadskis at the Health Law Institute at Schulich School of Law inspired me to work in medical ethics and consent in clinical trials. I had the unique opportunity to work on a public commission of inquiry into tragic medical errors; working directly with the Commissioner as a young lawyer was the first time I got to truly combine law and science, and Justice Cameron’s work, and how she worked to learn not only the facts of the case but to build a strong, deep understanding of the errors themselves and the science behind the testing, was truly inspirational. In deciding to pursue an MTEI, Dr. Dawn Jutla (who founded the program) was a mentor and inspiration for her work in computer science and to see how technology entrepreneurship and innovation was my calling.

I’ve been lucky to collaborate and work with some amazing entrepreneurs in the past 10 years, and am most inspired by those with a passion for making the world a better place. 

Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it?

Gosh, so many moments of doubt! I think two stick out the most: first, as someone who was always academically inclined, I’d never really had to develop strong study skills. University was a challenging transition for me, since I’d skated by to that point with straight A’s from little effort. When you’re used to succeeding easily, being challenged gives you serious doubts about your ability to succeed at a higher level! I was fortunate to have some great professors in that first year who made me see that, though it was challenging, I was capable – I just had to try harder! I hadn’t truly stretched my ‘brain muscles’ and of course, after a rough first semester, I loved the challenges that studying science brought to me.

The other main moment that stands out is after receiving a rejection letter from medical school. I’d thought biology –> medicine was my straightforward path in life. I was very wrong! But when you have an expectation, set a goal, and don’t reach it, it’s hard not to doubt yourself and your path. I was lost for awhile. For me, the key was to allow myself space to be disappointed, and then explore things that made me happy. Being able to pursue medical research helped me move forward while also opening other doors for me.

Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.

My training and career path are full of twists and turns, most all of which were a surprise! Developing asthma in my early 20’s meant no more ability to scuba dive, which I’d been using for work and in my research. Some early validation (the ASBMR outstanding abstract award; Burness Award for outstanding M.Sc. student) in research surprised me – I wasn’t sure I was capable. Finding out that law school and science were a good match was really surprising too! I thought I was at a disadvantage having not studied political science or business, but it turns out a science degree is a great base for so many different career opportunities.

Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work.

Non-work interests are so critical to work success, in my opinion! I love to read, but it’s important to read things outside your field. For me, reading across a breadth of topics has helped me increase my diversity of thought, which incorporates more critical thinking to all aspects of my work. Informing my work with all I can learn from others is definitely part of success. I also love #sciart! I’ve never considered myself artistic or creative, until in my late 30’s/early 40’s I allowed myself to explore and create more. Working those creative muscles has helped all aspects of work for me, opening my mind to different ways of expressing thoughts and ideas.

Is there some advice you could share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.

  1. Question everything! We often hear “because” as an answer when we’re children, and as adults, thinking critically and curiously about things will lead you to great success.
  2. Trust yourself. Remember there isn’t a “right” path and a “wrong” path, and there’s also not just one path. Decide what success looks like for you, and go after it. 
  3. Get cozy with change. Adaptability is key to success in 2020 – the world is changing so rapidly that change is still always a constant. Comfort with change will serve you well. 
  4. Keep doing the things that make you happy. Sometimes that’s work-related and sometimes not, but I think it’s important to keep doing things that don’t make you money – and it’s easy to get caught up in all work, all the time. Don’t let the things you love but that don’t make you money fall to the wayside – learning a new skill, picking up a new hobby, or meeting new people all fuel a happy life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s