Toronto chapter member, Susan Kellner, discusses how she first got involved with the Weizmann community and her interest in getting youth curious about science. In this volunteer spotlight, she shares how a potential trip to Israel and the Weizmann Institute turned into an opportunity to engage with science much closer to home.
Susan Kellner first researched the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2021 while planning a trip to Israel to celebrate her youngest son’s Bar Mitzvah. With a long-time passion for science and knowledge of the Weizmann Institute, a tour of the campus seemed like a creative and interesting addition to their trip. They would get a chance to tour a world-renowned research Institution and see firsthand, some of the amazing innovation coming out of Israel.
While trying to make the trip happen for about a year and a half, the challenges of the pandemic ultimately made it too difficult to go. With a curiosity for science still guiding her, Susan’s trip planning shifted to learning about Weizmann Canada and getting involved as a volunteer, where she could further explore her passion for science.
Working as a lawyer in New York early in her career, Susan developed a personal interest in science in her spare time, reading quantum physics books which she found made the science approachable and interesting. “I had read some layperson books by Brian Greene and Michio Kaku. I was fascinated and fell in love with it,” Susan recalls.
Deciding it was time to leave New York, Susan moved back home to Toronto to take a year off and follow her interest in science and physics, enrolling in part-time classes at the University of Toronto. She struggled doing math and physics initially and instead decided to focus on the explanatory side of these fields, auditing fourth year courses where the explanation of physics was more of the focus and more interesting to her.
After the year of dipping her toes into the academic science world, Susan returned to her law career fulltime and eventually married and had her two sons. Now, with both sons in their teens, she saw Weizmann Canada as a place where she could continue her own journey and possibly light that spark for others.
Susan is particularly interested in getting youth involved in science by informing them about the types of jobs available. Thinking about how to get kids and young adults curious about these areas, she says, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to help young people understand what science can be like as a profession, including all the camaraderie and teamwork involved.”
Her interest in science has expanded far beyond particle physics and in recent years she has been curious about environmental sustainability research too. This past September, Susan attended Weizmann Canada’s Mission Imperative national sustainability tour. Panelists including Weizmann Profs. Ron Milo and Avi Levy, and Heather Reisman, Chair and CEO of Indigo talked about ground-breaking research and how it can lead to industry solutions, while sharing what individuals can do to make an impact.
Mission Imperative really captivated Susan by helping her understand more than ever the need for science backed solutions when it comes to the environment. “It’s changed for me. That was a really excellent opportunity for me to see how evolving science can promote sustainability.” She adds that while she may have known that existed previously, she didn’t feel ‘connected’ to environmental science research like she does now following the event.
Officially joining Weizmann Canada’s Toronto Chapter as a volunteer this past June, Susan has taken every opportunity to engage with science and connect with the rest of the community. She also took her eldest son, Ethan, to Science on Tap with Weizmann Institute President, Prof. Alon Chen. Hosted on December 6 by the Weizmann League (a young professionals’ network), the event featured Prof. Chen’s research on the stress response and new advancements in depression treatment.
Excited to be part of a new community, Susan is looking forward to attending more events where she can interact with scientists, promote the vital research that Weizmann leads and at some point, finally make it to the Weizmann Institute for a campus tour!