About Vanessa

Well hey there. I’m version 1.0 of the Sung sisters duo.

After completing my PhD in Biochemistry at McGill University, I transitioned into a position in the Government of Canada and served as a policy advisor for nearly 4 years at the Office of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada.

I’m currently the Interim Executive Director at Evidence for Democracy, Canada’s leading non-profit organization advocating for the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making.

See below for a snapshot of my work throughout the years!

My time in academic research

My time in academic research was spent conducting research on various forms of cancer. The focus of my PhD thesis was a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer called triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), for which there are relatively few effective therapeutic options. My research strove to uncover why specific individual cells within TNBC tumours are more aggressive and drug-resistant than others, and whether we can target these cells as a therapeutic strategy.

My peer-reviewed publications include:

  • A panel of antibodies to determine site of origin and malignancy in smooth muscle tumors (2009): Link
  • Lipid nanoparticle siRNA systems for silencing the androgen receptor in human prostate cancer in vivo (2012): Link
  • Kibra (WWC1) is a metastasis suppressor gene affected by chromosome 5q loss in human triple negative breast cancers (2018): Link
  • Co-dependency for MET and FGFR1 in basal triple-negative breast cancers (2021): Link

My time in government

At the Office of the Chief Science Advisor (Dr. Mona Nemer), I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on a number of interesting files that aimed to strengthen the connections between the research, policy, and political communities.

My work included:

  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • International engagement and science diplomacy
  • Chief Science Advisor’s Expert Panel on COVID-19 (played key role in published reports, including reports on bioaerosols, vaccine certificates, vaccine-associated myocarditis, long COVID)
  • Science Meets Parliament in collaboration with the Canadian Science Policy Centre
  • Chief Science Advisor Youth Council

My time in non-profit

In October 2022 I joined Evidence for Democracy (E4D) as the Interim Executive Director. Through research, education and issue campaigns, we engage and empower the science community while cultivating public and political demand for evidence-informed decision-making. Please check out our website to see what exciting we’re currently doing.

But E4D isn’t my first experience leading a non-profit!

My interest in science policy was first sparked while I was still a graduate student. In 2015 I joined Science & Policy Exchange (SPE), a student-run science policy organization based in Montreal. SPE works to promote the student voice in science policy, and to bring together experts from academia, industry, and government to engage students and the public on issues at the interface of science and policy.

In 2017 I was elected Co-President of the organization. During my tenure in leadership, I spearheaded and co-organized the successful Canada-wide, trainee-driven campaign in support of the Fundamental Science Review, which included an open letter to the Prime Minister that received over 1200 signatures and was endorsed by associations representing over 300,000 students.

I served as an Internal Director until 2019. Learn more about SPE here.

In the media

  • On advocating for women in STEM for Sister STEM: Link
  • On self-advocacy for Science Magazine: Link
  • On gender barriers in STEM for Science & Policy Exchange: Link
  • On science communication for the McGill Reporter: Link
  • On taking student advice in science policy for The Hill Times: Link
  • Open letter to the Prime Minister on funding for fundamental science: Link
  • On science policy for Superwomen in Science podcast: Link
  • On science advocacy for Addgene blog: Link
  • On breast cancer research for Labfundr blog: Link


Evidence for Democracy

International Conference on Science Advice to Governments 2021

Canadian Science Policy Conference 2019

Goodman Cancer Research Centre

Science & Policy Exchange

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