2019-2020 Team

Farah Qaiser

Farah is a graduate student at the University of Toronto’s Molecular Genetics department, where her research involves sequencing patient DNA (whole genome sequencing) to better understand complex neurological disorders. When not in the lab, Farah writes, speaks and organizes various science communication, policy and outreach initiatives. Of note, Farah was a member of the organizing committee for the 2018 Toronto March for Science before co-founding the Toronto Science Policy Network.


Sivani Baskaran

Sivani is a PhD student in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Toronto. Her research looks at methods for measuring and predicting physical-chemical properties that are important for bioaccumulation assessment. She became interested in science policy during her undergraduate years at Trent University and helped co-found the Toronto Science Policy Network.


Maegan Ong

Maegan is a first year Master of Public Policy student at the Munk school in the University of Toronto. She completed a double major in chemistry and history, researching the synthesis and reactivity of novel iron complexes for her bachelor’s thesis. She is passionate about scientific communication and making science more accessible to the public. Prior to joining TSPN, she was president of the Chemistry Students’ Union at UofT. Outside of school she can be found rock climbing, skiing or walking her labradoodle.

Samantha McWhirter

Sam is a PhD student in Chemistry in the Walker Lab at U of T. Her research focuses on developing lipid-coated gold nanoparticles for biodiagnostic purposes. Sam was a volunteer with TSPN last year (and was part of the team who travelled to Ottawa for CSPC2018), and she is excited to be more involved with TSPN this year as marketing officer! In this role, she hopes to expand TSPN’s outreach in the GTA and to increase volunteer participation by reaching out to the community mainly through social media. Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys cooking, watching bad reality television and exploring the different types of beer that Toronto has to offer.

Caroline Pao

Caroline is a PhD student in Chemistry at the University of Toronto where she develops gold nanoparticle-based optical probes to improve the detection of cancer cells. She is a strong advocate for mental health and dedicates her time towards improving work culture in academia. She is also vocal about the need for professional development training in graduate education and has created long-lasting initiatives in her own department to train students for life after graduation. She is a Science Outside the Lab North alumna and Internal Communications Officer for TSPN. In her free time, Caroline enjoys binge-listening to crime podcasts, watching dog rescue videos, and exploring Toronto’s vast selection of craft beers.

Frank Telfer

Frank is a graduate student in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, studying Genetics and Genome Biology at SickKids. Frank’s research focuses on understanding the status of the immune system in a rare genetic cancer predisposition syndrome called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS). Frank is using computational tools applied to patient genomic information to better understand how the immune system changes in LFS patients and how this might affect the anti-cancer immune response in LFS-associated tumours. When not in the lab, Frank enjoys works on passion projects related to science communication, outreach, and science policy.

Isabella Lim

Isabella Lim is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her research interests lie within visual attention and memory. Through the TSPN she hopes to foster a community enthusiastic for evidence-based policy issues, both within and outside of academia. Outside of school she enjoys horror movies and going to concerts.

Dawn Bannerman

Dawn Bannerman is a PhD student at the University of Toronto in Chemical Engineering with a collaborative specialization in Biomedical Engineering. Her research focuses on cardiac tissue engineering approaches to improve heart function after a heart attack. She joined TSPN in its first year because she cares about the use of scientific evidence to inform decisions that lead toward a healthy population and environment.