Information and Referral Associate, Parkinson Canada

And - Science Writer/Editor, Vice-President of NeuroTechTO (Toronto Chapter of NeuroTechX)

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Start seeing setbacks as learning opportunities!

Maria Marano, MSc

What do you do?

In my role, I provide Parkinson’s education to the public and healthcare professionals. I explain the biology of the disease and how it leads to symptoms, answer questions regarding new research in the field, and help people manage their illnesses. I also provide internal training to make sure my colleagues are knowledgeable and up-to-date on current Parkinson’s information. Coming from a research background, it is imperative to me that we are providing evidence-based information, and I work hard to equip other members of the organization with accurate knowledge and resources.

Why did you choose this field?

I studied neuroscience during my undergrad and as my research focus in graduate school. Because we have such a minimal understanding of how the brain works, compared to other organs in the body, a lot of our knowledge about the brain comes from studying abnormal states (i.e., substance abuse or neurological disorders). This meant in class we not only discussed the biology of these illnesses but also how they impact the individual. I love neuroscience because it is a scientific field that inherently builds a lot of compassion.

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

I think as kids, we are taught the only careers in science are working in a lab or being a doctor. During my graduate studies, I realized there were not enough opportunities for me to discuss my research and engage with others; this led me to change my career trajectory to knowledge translation. As a kid, I wish I had known jobs that satisfy ALL your interests exist. I’m grateful to have found a role that incorporates both my scientific curiosity and my love for communication.

Why do you love working in STEM?

A lot of people avoid STEM because they think it is intimidating, uninteresting or over their heads. I love working in STEM because I get to have an understanding about aspects of the world not a lot of people know about. I feel privileged to understand complex scientific concepts, and I wake up looking forward to making these concepts accessible for others. Working with patients every day, I see how much of an advantage scientific literacy affords people when navigating the healthcare system; being a science communicator, I get to empower my clients with knowledge so they can better advocate for themselves.

Best advice for next generation?

Start seeing setbacks as learning opportunities! Try teaching yourself something you find really exciting but difficult. By getting comfortable with challenges and learning to see road bumps as opportunities for growing your knowledge base, you’ll be a better scientist and gain more from your research training later.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

My thesis acknowledgements end with this line: “Lastly, thank you to Hermione Granger and all the exceptional women in life and literature who set the bar so high. I’ll get there someday.” You will too.

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