Vanderhyden Biography

Barbara Vanderhyden

Barbara Vanderhyden completed her Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology at the University of Western Ontario during which time she worked part-time in an in vitro fertilization clinic. She then did postdoctoral studies at The Jackson Laboratory in Maine, where she learned to climb mountains, both literally and scientifically. She joined the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa in 1991 and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre in 1995, which initiated her interest in ovarian cancer. In addition to pursuing her research interests, Dr. Vanderhyden established several resources to facilitate the research endeavours of other scientists, including a transgenic mouse facility. In collaboration with her colleagues in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, she established an ovarian cancer tissue bank. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Ovarian Cancer Canada (formerly the National Ovarian Cancer Association), and is chair of their Research Committee. Dr. Vanderhyden recently received the 2003 Award of Excellence, the 2004 Mentorship Award, and the 2005 President's Award for Service to the University through Media and Community Relations. She was also named as one of Canada's Most Powerful Women by the Women's Executive Network.(2007), an Honoured Champion by the United Nations Association in Canada (2009), a YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, Research category (2009), and on of the Top 50 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Champions of Change (2010).

As the inaugural Corinne Boyer Chair in Ovarian Cancer Research, Dr. Vanderhyden spends most of her time leading an ovarian cancer research program and developing networks and resources to expand ovarian cancer research in Canada. She is particularly inspired by the passion with which ovarian cancer survivors and family members have spear-headed numerous initiatives to increase the awareness and support of ovarian cancer research in Canada. Her research program focuses on how cells communicate with each other in normal healthy ovaries, and how this communication may be disrupted or altered to cause ovarian cancers to develop. She is also developing models that can be used to test new cancer prevention and treatment strategies. In the spring of 1999, she won a Premier's Research Excellence Award for her proposal to examine tyrosine kinase receptor expression and function in ovarian cancers and their relationship to cancer cell responsiveness to chemotherapy.

Dr. Vanderhyden is a strong advocate for science education in schools and promoting awareness of science and scientists. In 1993, aware of the need for society to become more scientifically literate, she established the Ottawa branch of Let's Talk Science/Parlons Sciences. Let's Talk Science volunteers, who are graduate students in all fields of science, medicine, engineering and technology, are partnered with elementary and secondary science teachers to facilitate classroom learning environments that are active and fun. The program is a great success in Ottawa with more than 400 activities performed in the schools each year. In addition to improving science literacy, these partnerships serve the very important role of enabling graduate students, who are scientists-in-training, to acquire the skills necessary to speak about their work to the general public. Ideally, these skills will enable science advocacy to be an integral component of the careers of these young scientists.

In 2006, Dr. Vanderhyden established a second outreach program, Science Travels / La science voyage, a program dedicated to enhancing science education of children and youth in remote and aboriginal communities in northern Ontario, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. In its first six years of operation, Science Travels delivered no less than 1139 science workshops in 77 different schools and community centres through the efforts of 59 teams of graduate student volunteers. More than 5,000 children and youth participate in these workshops each year. The recent addition of Celebrating Wisdoms provides a mechanism to ensure the integration of traditional and scientific knowledge in the workshops. The Aboriginal Mentorship Program culminates each year in May, when 24 aboriginal students with aptitudes for science are invited to Ottawa for a week to participate in a program of lab activities, presentations by leading-edge researchers, student mentorship and social activities designed to encourage and motivate these young students. For her work on science education, Dr. Vanderhyden received the Gordin Kaplan Award for Science Promotion from the Canadian Federation of Biological Sciences (2001) and the Biomedical Science Ambassador Award from Partners in Research.(2007) and the CIHR Synapse Mentorship Award, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2009).

Dr. Vanderhyden's passions are chocolate and science. She enjoys unexpected results, challenging graduate students and exotic meals made by her husband and fellow scientist, Dr. Paul Morley.