Dr. Cheryl McCormick is paving the road for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) research. On January 1, she officially began her new position as Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies for the Faculty of Math and Science. McCormick is the first women to be appointed to the position. She will hold the position for the next three years, and during that time she hopes to promote the research at Brock.
As the first woman in the role, McCormick hopes go encourage and inspire other women to consider math and science as a potential career pathway.
“When one can identify with a person in a position, one might see themselves in that position,” she explains. “ I would be delighted if my role as Associate Dean had some women consider Maths and Science as a career direction.”
These desires stem from personal experience. McCormick mentioned that as a child, she had wanted to be a police officer like her father, but she never saw female police officers. She did, however, see women in dispatcher roles, so she thought she could become a dispatcher instead.
Although she is excited for more women to enter the science field, her focus is broader. She wants to recognize and appreciate the unique differences in thought and perspective that each individual can bring to a research team.
“Diversity in any number of forms can bring new perspectives, and so it is good to have a broad representation of people. My hope though is the focus is on the individual rather than the group stereotype; for example, the variation within men and within women is far greater than the differences between men and women,” McCormick explains.
McCormick says that although women have faced significant challenges in leadership roles, her experience at Brock has been positive.
“In general, my experience at Brock while I was the Director of the Centre for Neuroscience in the Faculty of Math and Science was being treated foremost as a colleague,” she says. McCormick held that position for over two years prior to being appointed to the Associate Dean position. “The number of women in leadership roles is increasing, which indicates acceptance of women in such positions at Brock.”
McCormick’s own research is focused on “how experiences in adolescence shape ongoing brain development and thereby shape adult brain and behaviour function.” She works with several graduate and honours students as well as volunteers in her lab for this research. Her passion for research inspires some of her goals during her time as Associate Dean.
“One goal is to promote the success of graduate student and faculty research, and increase the recognition within the university and outside of university of the world-class research that is conducted at Brock. A second goal is to help remove barriers that impede the success of graduate student and faculty researchers.”
In addition to her position as Associate Dean, McCormick continues to serve on the Behavioural Neuroscience Committee, which she has been part of for 14 years. She is also an associate member of the Department of Biology and has been a member of the Environmental Sustainability Research Center for over four years. Her passion for research has also led her to work with Science Without Borders research interns as well as other various research programs. She has been recognized for her work and research with several awards. Recently, she was awarded an NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council) Discovery Grant as well as a Council for Research in Social Sciences Research Award.
McCormick is a featured speaker at various symposiums across North America.