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Laurier professor wins Young Scientist Award
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Stephanie DeWitte-Orr, an assistant professor of biology and health sciences at Laurier, was recently named the winner of the Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB) Young Scientist Award. She is the first researcher from a Canadian institution to receive the award.
Established in 2008, the SIVB Young Scientist Award recognizes researchers who are within 10 years of completing their terminal degree and who have made significant contributions to the advancement of in vitro sciences. DeWitte-Orr is just the fourth person to satisfy the award criteria since its creation.
“It’s a fantastic honour,” said DeWitte-Orr. “It always feels nice to be acknowledged for your work, especially early in your career. Knowing that I’m doing well early on is a great encouragement.”
After receiving her PhD from the University of Waterloo in 2006, DeWitte-Orr completed a postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University from 2006-10 before joining Laurier as an assistant professor in 2011. Once at Laurier, she quickly established her research program, while teaching classes as large as 250 students and supervising several masters and honours thesis students.
Lucy Lee, a former Laurier biology professor and department chair who is now dean of science at the University of the Fraser Valley, praised DeWitte-Orr for her ability as a researcher and a teacher.
“Despite her relatively recent PhD, Stephanie already has over 20 peer-reviewed publications under her belt and is ramping up her work with her new research crew,” Lee wrote in her letter nominating DeWitte-Orr for the award. “She is also an excellent instructor… [and] gives generously of her time reaching out to students, colleagues and public at large in many capacities.”
Currently, DeWitte-Orr and her research team of graduate and undergraduate students is studying how animal cells respond to viral infections.
“Right now we are looking at fish cells and we’re seeing how they realize that they’re infected with a virus,” said DeWitte-Orr. “We’re determining how they recognize they’re infected and what are the first things they do to respond, to protect themselves.”
Winning the award comes with some added significance for DeWitte-Orr. To her, it’s not only indicative of her professional success, but also her ability to balance her career with her growing young family.
“It seems like a lot of women get to a point in their scientific career and they have to decide between family and career,” said DeWitte-Orr, who became a new mother shortly after starting at Laurier and has since had her second child. “To be able to be a mentor and say that you can balance both family and a career, that’s a big deal to me.”
For more information on the SIVB, click here.
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