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Associated Alumni

Marianne Mader: Doing what she loves

Marianne Mader (BSc’00) began her science degree in 1996 with her sights set on being a geneticist and working in a lab. But, that all changed in her second year.

“I did a little bit of soul searching and realized that what I really wanted was to work outside,” she says. “Growing up, I really loved exploring national parks and seeing the wonders of the natural world. So I switched my major to geology.”

Mader credits UNB for giving her the support and foundation she needed to pursue her passion.

“UNB’s small class sizes and strong field mapping program were key,” she says. “I spent two and a half months each summer in the field examining rocks.”

In her fourth year, Mader helped organize a student-run field trip to the United States.

“We went to Arizona and the Grand Canyon, and it was amazing,” she says. “We went to Meteor Crater and we met scientists there. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip.”

After graduating from UNB, Mader went on to pursue a master’s degree in geology and earth science from Memorial University and later, a master of science in space studies degree from the International Space University.

“My interest in planetary science really began at UNB,” says Mader. “That’s when John Spray was just starting up his planetary science program. Even though I didn’t choose at that moment to go into planetary science, the fact that I was exposed to it, or just the knowledge that this was a field was just enough to start planting the seeds that would sprout later in my career.”

Today, Mader is the managing director of the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) Centres for Earth & Space and Fossils & Evolution. In this role, she helps people to understand the Earth, the solar system, and how life evolved over time.

She works with teams across the ROM to develop programs, projects and partnerships and is tasked with sharing and making relevant the ROM’s extensive fossil, rock, mineral, and gem collections and renowned curatorial research.

“What I love about the field of space is the concept of pushing boundaries and technologies,” said Mader in an interview with Kickass Canadians creator Amanda Sage. “Anyone who is involved in the space industry, they’re in it because of this childhood love. No matter where they’re working in the field, there’s this connection to that sense of wonder.”

Mader has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. At not quite 40 years old, she has four degrees to her name, including a PhD, which she successfully defended in December. She has collaborated with the Canada Space Agency, NASA, and MDA - Canada’s largest space company - to plan and execute simulated lunar and planetary exploration missions. In 2009, she was one of 75 applicants (out of 5,300 people who met minimum criteria) chosen to the Canadian astronaut selection process.

She was awarded a US Antarctic Service Medal in 2013 for her participation in the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program. In 38 years, only two other Canadians have been selected to participate in the program.

Mader’s love of learning, exploration and wonder was something that she couldn’t keep to herself. In 2012, she and her husband Andy Forest co-founded STEAMLabs, a not-for--profit ‘makerspace’ in downtown Toronto, where kids can access technologies and materials and go anywhere their minds take them.

“It’s all about open-ended, interest-driven, hands-on learning,” says Mader. “The space offers people of all ages access to the tools to build something creatively."

"They can come to STEAMLabs and they can basically build whatever they want. There's no one saying you have to do it one way. They come up with an idea and then they work with a facilitator to figure out how they're going to make it happen."

Mader says exploring is about shifting your mindset from just looking at the final result. For her, it’s the process of getting there that counts.

You can read about her journey on Kickass Canadians.

Back to Alumni News Direct - January 2016