Recap of TSPN Talks with Dr. Masha Cemma

Toronto Science Policy Network
3 min readJan 5, 2021

On December 17th, we held a virtual TSPN Talks with Dr. Masha Cemma, Policy Advisor to the Chief Science Advisor of Canada. This event gave the UofT community as well as graduate students across Canada a chance to learn about Dr. Cemma’s transition from PhD graduate to Policy Advisor and how to navigate a similar career path.

Dr. Cemma began her talk by providing background on her education as well as additional training and fellowships that she acquired after completing her PhD in the Department of Molecular Genetics at U of T. Dr. Cemma then went on to describe a typical work day in her role as Policy Advisor. She noted that there are quite a number of differences in the work environment and culture as you transition from grad school into government. For example, instead of writing scientific articles, she writes 1-pagers, which are typically 1–2 page documents that summarize something. She also provided a list of some of the key skills and attributes that she believes one should possess for success in a science policy role such as her own, including communication, flexibility, creativity and interpersonal skills.

The audience was very engaged and had a number of questions for Dr. Cemma at the end of her talk which related to various aspects of maneuvering a transition from basic science research to science policy. Cemma highlighted the benefits of joining volunteering for groups like the Toronto Science Policy Network (TSPN), Science and Policy Exchange (SPE), and the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC). Participating in workshops by TSPN, SPE, CSPC and Evidence for Democracy (E4D) are also a good way to learn more about science policy. Finally she encouraged people to apply for science policy programs and internships like the Mitacs Canadian Science Policy Fellowship, Recruitment of Policy Leaders, Science Outside the Lab North, and the Council of Canadian Academies internship.

Finally, Dr. Cemma summarized a few key points from her talk as:

  1. Strive for excellence.
  2. Invest in yourself.
  3. Write, write, write.
  4. Communicate science to youth & adults (like politicians).
  5. Read the news and be curious.

For those who were unable to attend, you can check out our Twitter recap thread. A recording of the talk can be viewed on our Youtube channel or at the end of the article.

TSPN would like to thank Dr. Cemma for giving her time to speak about her experiences and her career path and for sharing her wisdom with the University of Toronto community and beyond. We would also like to thank University of Toronto’s Student Initiative Fund for generously sponsoring our event. Finally, we would also like to thank everyone who attended and participated in this event.

— The TSPN Team

The Toronto Science Policy Network (TSPN) aims to provide a platform for students (graduate and undergraduate), as well as post-doctoral researchers, to learn more about and engage in science policy. Sign up for our mailing list to stay in the loop about TSPN’s upcoming events. Read about our previous events on our Medium page here.



Toronto Science Policy Network

TSPN is a student science policy group at the University of Toronto, where students & researchers can learn more about and engage in science policy.