Ada McVean is a science writer and masters student living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She received her Bachelor of Science, with a double major in bio-organic chemistry, and gender, sexuality, feminist and social justice studies from McGill University in 2019.

Ada enjoys science communication because it allows her to unite two of her biggest passions: science and social justice. She has been working with the McGill Office for Science and Society since 2016 separating sense from nonsense and has been a freelance science writer since 2019. She is passionate about a wide variety of scientific topics, but particularly enjoys writing about veterinary medicine, gendered health issues and biases in science.

Ada is doing her masters in the Damha Research Group at McGill University making anti-CRISPR oligonucleotides. She also works with the McGill Chemistry Outreach Group lighting things on fire to teach kids about science, and Montreal’s largest no-kill cat shelter, the Animal Rescue Network, giving pills to cats and making funny tweets.

When not in the lab (or writing), Ada spends her time cooking, playing video games, and cleaning up after her 2 guinea pigs and 15-year old gecko.

Website – AdaMcVean.com

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early Bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?

Pro-pun

3 Do you have any pets?

YES! Right now 2 guinea pigs named Nutmeg and Saffron, and a 15 year old leopard gecko named Geico (my partner got him for his 9th birthday, I don’t like the name so I call him Buddy). Our neighbours also have a cat named JC who hangs out at our house for roughly 75% of the day.

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

All kinds of old equipment that labs no longer needed, like an old bunsen burner, cracked beakers and dessicators for plant pots, plus a miniature (and a real sized) microscope.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?

Both

6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Both

7 Do you speak any other languages?

No

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

I think I’d either go into veterinary medicine (either as a vet, a researcher or a vet tech), or still be a writer but outside of science (focusing on women’s health, social justice and disability activism)

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Biology!

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

No where there is a PANDEMIC on!

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation for sure. Imagine the time you’d save on commuting.

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Hank Green’s 2 novels: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavour. I just finished the second last week and can’t stop thinking about it. I’m sure I’ll reread it many times, given that I’ve read the first at least 4 times through. It’s a wondrous mix of speculative fiction and sci-fi. It’s set in modern times, and manages to make remarkable commentaries on our current situations, even while being about giant robotic samurai aliens.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Sleep. Then sleep more. Maybe play some video games, read a novel, bake something, but mostly sleep.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

My partner, my SNRIs, and pets.

15 What beverage gives you life?

A Gin Smash by the Georgian Bay Brewing Company, but less nichely, Diet Coke.

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

A nurse, a psychologist, a pharmacist, a musician

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

The overwhelming need to work to produce capital to purchase goods and services in order to survive in our capitalist world? More seriously, the hope and desire I have to help people. In big ways and small ways, the people I love and the people I don’t even know.

19 What got you excited in science?

While it sounds generic- curiosity. I found myself time and time again asking “why”. I wasn’t content to get a broad answer, I always wanted to know more. Knowing that sexual reproduction worked by combining an egg and a sperm cell wasn’t enough, I needed to know the mechanics of it. I needed to know what was happening on the most microscopic scale.

20 What excites you about science now?

The desire to help people. Both through my research (making anti-CRISPR aptamers that will hopefully help advance CRISPR-based genetic editing technologies and help treat/cure genetic diseases), and through my science communication work. I saw the harm that scientific illiteracy can have on one’s health, finances and life. These harms are especially pronounced in those in vulnerable positions, and I wanted, and felt obligated, to try to mitigate that.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Ordering ice cream via delivery (Dairy Queen tastes better at 11 pm in the comfort of your own home).

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I have a decent amount of unused musical experience and talent. I played flute in classical and jazz school school and community bands for 7 years, and tenor saxophone for 2. I always wanted to pursue vocal lessons, as singing is my real passion, but never had the opportunity.

23 What is your favorite game?

Dragon Age: Origins

24 What is the last book you read?

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavour by Hank Green

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

You will always struggle with not feeling productive until you accept that your own joy can be something you produce. It is not the only thing you will make, nor should it be, but it is something valuable and beautiful.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Write a book

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Go to a doctor and get an MRI, you have a torn ACL (that won’t be diagnosed for the next 6 years, will lead to a torn meniscus, and will require reconstructive surgery)

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Reading a really good book at night on my back porch. Or playing Overwatch.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

The first Leafs game of the 2020 Stanley Cup qualifying rounds (sadly, they lost)

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

My moms ashes

31 What is your favorite animal?

Rabbits

32 What is your favorite book?

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Vegetarian Shepard’s Pie

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

February 29th

35 What is your favorite plant?

My partner’s ginseng bonsai tree, Ginny

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Wombats poop in cubes

37 What is your favorite season?

Spring

38 What is your favorite smell?

Mint and lavender

39 What is your favorite sound?

the sound of a match lighting

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

My love of, and deep compassion for animals

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Recently, kodachrome

42 What is your proudest moment?

Eulogizing my mother at her funeral last year. My nana, whom I was very close with, passed away several years ago, and I declined to speak at her funeral as I thought it would be too difficult for me. I’ve regretted that ever since, so when my mom passed I swore that I would write and deliver a eulogy worthy of her tremendous love and compassion, no matter how difficult it was.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

A weeping willow

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

The abundant public transportation options. Not only is there a metro system that covers most of downtown and many residential areas, but there are also extensive bus and train systems to compliment it. Our city is also one of the few to publicly fund their bike-share program, and accordingly it’s one of the most successful.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

Veterinarians are between 4 and 8 times more likely to take their lives than the general population. This profession is facing a mental health crisis but most people are completely unaware. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health/how-do-veterinarians-die

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Kavin Senapathy (@ksenapathy)