Catharine Grace Young

Executive Director, SHEPHERD Foundation

And - TED Fellow


It really is our responsibility as scientists to share our skillsets and knowledge with society.

What do you do?

I am a rare cancer activist.

Why did you choose this field?

I received a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and completed my Postdoctoral training in Biomedical Engineering. I always knew however that as a scientist, I wanted to use my scientific skills and work outside the confines of a lab wall. My career journey to some may seem convoluted, but science has always been the thread to link the different stepping stones together.

Following my postdoctorate training I entered into the field of science policy, first working at the Department of Defense in the Division of Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Warfare, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. Here I not only got to experience the intersection of science and policy first hand, but I got to experience it in action with the outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa. I witnessed how science was at the forefront of the policy decision-making process.

Next, I served as the Senior Science and Innovation Policy Advisor for the Foreign Commonwealth Office at the British Embassy where I learned here - the value of building strong partnerships which led to strong international collaborations between the US and the UK to advance scientific knowledge.

And following that I became the Senior Director of Science Policy at the Biden Cancer Initiative. Continuing the mission of the cancer moonshot led by Vice President Biden - following the transition of the administration - we focused on removing large systemic barriers to accelerate the development of treatments and on creating a healthcare system that prioritized placing the patient above all else.

It was following this experience that I took on the role as Executive Director of the SHEPHERD Foundation, an organization looking to build a momentum to revolutionize the rare cancer system. It is in this position that all my skills as a scientists and varying roles within science policy - have prepared me for.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I was selected as a TED Fellow, which as the program describes it - is one of the most competitive and highly selective fellowship programs in the world. It was a life changing experience and one that someones I still can't believe I was selected for.

Why do you love working in STEM?

It's a privilege to understand the scientific process and to be able to dissect problems, navigate complex scientific information, and draw out accurate conclusions, regardless of the scientific topic. This type of training is incredibly valuable for navigating our world, and because of this, it really is our responsibility as scientists to share our skillsets and knowledge with society. I love being able to advance scientific knowledge, whether its in my job, as an advocate for women in STEM or as a science communicator with the public.

Best advice for next generation?

Don't let society box you into what it deems normal. Pursue what you are passionate about and what excites you - and it will lead you to where you need to be.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world” - Nelson Mandela

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