International Women’s Day – A chat with Dr. Maya Evanden

March 8

To celebrate International Women’s Day, RDAR talks with exceptional women working in agriculture research in Alberta. We will learn all about their exciting careers and beyond. Meet Dr. Maya Evanden, Insect Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta

What is your area of agriculture reseach?

I am an entomologist and part of the work in my lab is focused on insects in agroecosystems.  This includes both pest and beneficial species. I study insect behaviour and chemical ecology.  My work aims to develop environmentally friendly tools to control insect pests with less insecticidal input.

Do you have any female scientist role models or personal mentors?

I greatly admire Dr. May Berenbaum. I have never worked with May, but she is such an impressive entomologist, chemical ecologist, activist, writer, professor and administrator…. she does it all!

When it comes to mentorship, I was fortunate enough to have great mentors throughout my undergraduate and graduate school experiences. 

Dr. Richard Ring at University of Victoria got me interested in insects in the first place, Dr. John Borden at Simon Fraser University taught me about insect chemical ecology and got me excited about applying my findings to pest management in forest and agricultural systems.

In my personal life, my parents and my husband have always been my biggest cheerleaders.

What advice do you have for someone looking to enter the agriculture research field?

Research and work in an area that you are passionate about. Make sure that you delimitate, or make clear boundaries for your time spent working. It is important to have a work life balance, otherwise you can burn out quickly.

Do you think women face unique challenges in the workplace?

Yes. I do think that women have the extra challenge of managing family and work. Often many working women are not only juggling career progression, but at the same time managing family demands to a greater extent than men.  

How do you maintain your energy and enthusiasm throughout the day (or week, month, or year)?

I maintain my energy and enthusiasm by working with great people. There is nothing like eager students to keep you going.

What's a fun fact about you?

I am a descendent of the Twinings tea family… which might explain my fondness of tea.