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Interview with Dr. Andrea Gonzalez

Journalist: Anam Biabani

Anam Biabani: Hello and welcome back to Sci-Section. I'm your journalist, Anam, for the Sci-Section radio show broadcasted on CFMU 93.3. FM radio station. We're here today with Dr. Andrea Gonzalez, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, a member of the Offord Center for Child Studies, and the McMaster Institute for Research in Aging (MIRA). And in addition to all of those accomplishments, she holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in family health and preventive interventions. We're so fortunate to have you here with us today at SCI section!

Dr. Andrea Gonzalez: Thank you so much for the invitation to come.

Anam Biabani: So to get us started, would you be willing to give us a little introduction of who you are your education, your career, your background, hobbies, and maybe just add on a little fun fact about yourself?

Dr. Andrea Gonzalez: Sure. So I was initially trained in psychology and neuroscience at the University of Toronto, I did all my training actually at Uof T undergraduate and graduate, I didn't venture too far from home. And then I came to do my postdoctoral fellowship after my PhD at the Offord center to learn a little bit more about epidemiology and preventative interventions. I guess my research program very largely focuses on family violence and parenting practices and how we can promote healthy child development through positive and playful parenting. Hobbies, I used to like to read pre COVID I seem to not be able to do that anymore. I love watching movies, I have a 12 year old son, so I'm into Marvel and the minions and everything and we play board games and go for bike rides. And a fun fact about myself is you know, I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. And my husband likes to call me Hermione!

Anam Biabani: I'm sure being at your position right now did not happen easily. So would you be willing to tell us a little bit about your challenges that you've faced along the way?

Dr. Andrea Gonzalez: Yeah, I think, you know, some of my initial challenges. Even knowing as an undergrad, what I wanted to do, I think that I changed my specialization a few times and kept trying different things out. And I finally took a physiological psychology course. And I felt like it really resonated with me, because it combined my love of biology and behavior together. I think some of my other challenges in relation to academia, and I, it's something I think we all struggle with is balance. Because it, you know, academia can certainly take as much as you're willing to give it. So sometimes it's hard to strike that balance. And then as a working mother, I think some of those, you know, typical barriers we hear that women face, and some of the challenges even with COVID, and how it's impacted working women. That's been another barrier for sure.

Anam Biabani: I really like everything you said, and I especially like how you brought me through the different stages. So you know, as a student than in your masters or PhD and now, so what kind of advice would you give to students and just other people who are listening to this show right now and are interested in pursuing maybe a similar field?

Dr. Andrea Gonzalez: Yeah, I think, you know, I don't know if other people are like this. I sort of feel like I didn't venture out too much along my very kind of set path in life. Like I always knew what my next logical step would be. And maybe that's the Hermione in me that my husband talks about, but I think it's just, you know, exploring, finding your passion. Like to me it's really about finding your passion. And ultimately, even though I took this kind of prescribed next step format, I feel like I did find my passion but it's been a real evolution along the way, which has been fantastic in terms of learning and growth. And I think being flexible when things don't turn out necessarily the way you think they might is, is really important as well. And being kind to yourself and taking breaks when you need it.

Anam Biabani: I think it's something really undervalued in our society, but it's something that is, I think we should learn more about in school, and integrate more into our life. So I definitely agree with that. But next question. This is a little bit different. But science is a field that really interests me. And I know that being a researcher, being in your field that you are science is obviously something that must interest you, too. So what do you think our scientific community needs the most right now?

Dr. Andrea Gonzalez: Yeah, I think that's a great question. And a tough one, I think, you know, maybe pre COVID, my answer might have been different. And I know people are talking about the pandemic a lot. And there's probably a lot of pandemic fatigue going on. But I think we do need to kind of take a step back and reevaluate as a society, what are our priorities?

I think that the world faces tremendous challenges right now. Not only the pandemic, but with wars, and with, you know, food shortages and increased inflation and climate change issues. And I think no one discipline is going to be able to solve all the problems we face now.

So it's how do we really break down those silos? And barriers, you know, across disciplines? How do we come together as a collective to solve some of the issues that I think that we're facing in that are only going to get more complicated with time?

Anam Biabani: I definitely agree with that, I think taking an interdisciplinary approach through and just considering how all of them intersect, how all aspects of science, how all aspects of humanity, all of them kind of come together to affect the world as it is.

Dr. Andrea Gonzalez: Yeah. And I do think that there's a lot of redundancy, a lot of I mean, replication certainly is a super important part of, of science. So I'm not saying that we shouldn't be trying to replicate things. But I think that sometimes it certain fields don't necessarily collaborate as much as we should. And, you know, when you think about how quickly they came up with the COVID vaccine, they were able to mobilize in incredible ways, because we were facing this unprecedented challenge. So can we take that kind of model and apply it to other types of issues as well?

Anam Biabani: Yes, I definitely agree with that. That's something I think people should really hear. So thank you for that. And so now for a final question. This is a little fun question. If you were a novel, what would you be called? And why?

Dr. Andrea Gonzalez: Yeah. This is a tough one. I, I think the thing that comes to me right off the top of my head is the nutty professor. But I think if you talk to any of my team, or my trainees, they would say I'm a little bit unconventional. And I certainly like to bring a lot of humor to our work, and a lot of warmth.I hate bringing up COVID All the time, but I feel like we've been working remotely for so long. And most of our team continues to do that. But it's really about how do we make human connections and other way and I think we do that through humor. In our team, we do it through wellness plans, we try to talk about the things that make us happy and centered nowadays. So I don't know if the nutty professor had to think of another one while they say something about the winding road because I figure that that's the way my life has sort of been and I feel like there's probably a lot of other bends up the road that I can't even predict or anticipate, but that's sort of what my life has been like.

Anam Biabani: Your response brought a smile to my face. That was an amazing response. Thank you for joining us today. It was, it was amazing to hear about your career, your perspective, and your entire journey throughout, throughout everything. The work you're doing is so relevant and so important. So, I'm really excited to see what comes next.

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