Science that can change your life

Adelene Gaw decided to study science because she enjoyed math and wanted to explore career options that matched her interests. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to be after high school, so I decided to study science because there were lots of variety and streams that I could choose from,” she explains. “There are so many interesting careers available to people who study science.”

During her studies at McMaster University, she decided to enter the Medical and Health Physics program. “What attracted me to the program were the enthusiastic professors who were passionate about their work and loved interacting with students. I was also really interested in the opportunity to work at McMaster’s nuclear facilities including their nuclear reactor which I was able to do while I was in the program.” Adelene also studied in the Master’s program in health physics which focused on the protection of workers and the public from radiation exposure. This gave her a strong foundation to take on her current role as Coordinator in the Radon Technical Operations Section at Health Canada’s Radiation Protection Bureau.

“It’s interesting work, because radon is such a significant source of radiation exposure,” explains Adelene. “Exposure to radon gas in our homes is most people’s biggest exposure to radiation in their lifetime.”

Adelene worked in nuclear and radiation exposure and risk assessment for over 10 years before joining Health Canada to work with the National Radon Program. She is currently leading the development of updated guidance on radon measurement and mitigation, as well as on the management of naturally occurring radioactive material in Canada. In this role, Adelene also has the opportunity to work with the public and stakeholder partners to raise awareness and promote evidence-based action that can help Canadians reduce their risk of radon-induced lung cancer.

When considering a career in science, Adelene shares sound advice. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Consider the vast options that are available in science,” she cautions. “Often people study science with the goal of becoming doctors, but don’t realize there are so many more science-based career options available! That was one of the exciting things that I discovered when I went into science.”

Adelene is interested promoting women in STEM. She is involved in the Women in STEM initiative at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission where she worked prior to joining Health Canada. “There are so many great women candidates for jobs in science.”

When Adelene isn’t working, it’s most common to find Adelene travelling the world or making quilts to express her artistic side. She definitely is a multifaceted woman!


Let’s draw attention to the incredible work of women in science! This article is part of a month-long series celebrating women in science, from International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11) to International Women’s Day (March 8). For even more articles about amazing women working in science, head over to the Canadian Women in STEM blog.