WAGE Canada recognizes Dr. Melanie Ratnam, President of SCWIST and UTSC Alum, for Women’s History Month in Canada

Melanie Ratnam Source: WAGE Canada

From local schools to national forums, UTSC alum champions women in STEM for Canada’s Women’s History Month  

October 13th, 2023

By: Jenefer Savoeung

From UTSC biology labs to national policy forums to Scarborough primary and secondary schools, Dr. Melanie Ratnam champions a passion for science, innovation and creating positive impact on community.

This October 2023, Woman and Gender Equality (WAGE) Canada recognizes Dr. Ratnam for Women’s History Month. Since 1992, the Government of Canada highlights the achievements of Canadian women and girls. This year, WAGE’s theme “Through Her Lens: Celebrating the Diversity of Women'' recognizes eleven Canadian women from diverse backgrounds, who are forging change and cultivating an inclusive future. 

Dr. Ratnam has strong roots in Scarborough, where she was raised, lives, and works. She is a UTSC PhD graduate in neurobiology, where her research focused on how resident immune cells of the brain, microglia regulate inflammation after cerebral ischemia.

Dr. Ratnam is currently the President of the UTSC Alumni Association, where she dedicates her time to supporting activities that nurture the alumni community and deepen their connections with their alma mater. In 2022, she was recognized for her volunteer services to the University with an Arbor Award, the highest honour granted by U of T to individuals for exceptional and sustained volunteering.

Her advocacy work spans across Canada both nationally, through SCWIST, and locally, through UTSC and Toronto schools. She has mentored over 1000 elementary, high school, and university students and empowers them to tackle our time’s most pressing challenges through innovation in science and technology.

Leading Change with SCWIST Canada

Currently, Dr. Ratnam serves as the President of The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST). SCWIST is a national non-profit that for forty years has been advancing gender equality and removing systemic barriers in STEM for equity-deserving groups nationwide.

melanie ratnam un
Melanie Ratnam at the United Nations’ annual Commission on the Status of Women session in New York. Source: Melanie Ratnam

Last spring, she attended the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women session to build on the work of SCWIST’s Policy and Advocacy team and reflect insights from diverse communities across Canada, who each contribute unique and valuable perspectives on policy, science, and innovation.

“SCWIST has spoken with women in STEM throughout Canada about the barriers they face and these conversations have been very influential when outlining gender-responsive policy suggestions,” says Dr. Ratnam.

Dr. Ratnam seeks to honour the communities she comes from through her commitment to SCWIST's national strategy, which addresses systemic barriers within STEM, spanning from early education to career advancement. 

Read more on UTSC News: Alum brings policy expertise to UN session on empowering women and girls through STEM


Investing in the Future Generation of STEM Innovators

Dr. Ratnam invests in the future of other Canadian scientists and innovators, like herself, through her work in schools across Scarborough and the Eastern Greater Toronto Area (GTA). She designed programs like Ultimate Science for elementary-school students to combine STEM and innovation with a focus on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In secondary schools, Dr. Ratnam works with the EaRTH Switch program at UTSC to prepare the next generation of innovators for the future of transportation and work in the electric vehicle and mobility industry. She contributes to the ideation sessions, design thinking workshops and preparation for innovation challenges like EVolve Hackathon for secondary and post-secondary.

“Canada’s vast talent pool for innovation is going to be our greatest driver to achieving economic growth,” says Dr. Ratnam, “embedded within our diverse communities is the creativity needed to solve the biggest challenges of our time and deliver on our commitment to achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”  


women ideation session
EVolve Hackathon workshop and ideation session at UTSC with Pickering High School, Source: The Hub

At UTSC The Hub, startup incubator, Dr. Ratnam gives back through mentorship and coaching with entrepreneurs. She also hosts a Science Innovation series, to support science-based startups to understand and succeed in innovation and entrepreneurship.

"Melanie has been a tremendous contributor to The Hub ecosystem and all the founders within. She has inspired many to attain their entrepreneurship goals and we are grateful to have Melanie as an advocate for our community and women across Canada,” says Donovan Dill, The Hub Operations Lead.       

“Women’s History Month is a time to remember and honour Canadian women who have worked tirelessly throughout our history to advance women’s rights,” says Marci Ien in 2023 Women's History Month Message. Dr. Melanie Ratnam exemplifies this statement. Her work impacts generations to embrace community when it comes to innovation and change in STEM.

2023 Women's History Month Video Message
2023 Women's History Month Video Message