I was fascinated with insects of life of all kinds since about age eight, so I wanted to become an entomologist. I did my Ph.D. on apple mite pests but then took a slight left into the weeds doing a postdoc on Weed Science as part of a very inspiring lab led by Clarence Swanton at the University of Guelph. Moving to the west coast of Canada and teaching a course in Hawaii drew me into the world of invasive plants, opening up an array of subjects for me to study the fascinating interplay between invasive plants, climate change and creation care.
I was an electronics hobbyist and ham radio operator as a teenager and learned to code on some of the early personal computers. My hobby led to my vocation, beginning as an electrical engineer working in industry in Waterloo and eventually discerning a call to teaching. Even as a professor, my hobbyist inclinations remain. I am still an active ham radio operator, and I take delight in tinkering with Raspberry Pi computers.
I chose biology because I fell in love with bugs and frogs and collected them endlessly as a child (much to my mother’s chagrin). Although I hadn’t necessarily planned on a career in biology, when my classmates started calling me “Betty Biologist,” I realized that I should consider it.
I initially entered seminary with the goal of becoming a pastor (and I have served in that role a couple of times over the years), but I really fell in love with theology. I find that life’s questions continually drive me back to the study table to search things out. Theology, for me, isn’t simply a body of information or a bunch of stale teachings, but an active practice, a discipline, of thinking about all things in relation to God, as revealed in Christ and by the Holy Spirit.
It was due to a combination of curiosity and what I thought were practical considerations. I was quite interested in math, but I thought that physics was a more practical route toward employment. It turned out that what I like about math (calculating) is what is done in theoretical physics. The added bonus — which really piqued my interest — is that the results of the calculations tell us something fundamental about our universe.
I first studied Animal Science at UBC because I liked domestic animals. This led to endocrinological research in zoology. All along, I was also interested in the history of biology.
My high school physics teachers let me “play” with all kinds of stuff during lunch breaks. Then at university, my physics tutor (who was a Christian, and that’s another story) offered me a summer job (and he paid better than the alternatives) in the atmospheric physics group. I stayed for ten years, and then I took up a faculty position in Toronto, Canada.
In my final undergraduate year at Dordt University, Harry Cook encouraged me to continue my studies in graduate school. Since I liked both chemistry and biology and had an agricultural background, I elected to complete a Master’s and Ph.D. degree in herbicide physiology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton with the goal to work in the agricultural industry. My Ph.D. thesis research was one of the first to both identify and quantify the self-inhibition of herbicide movement in plants. About half a year before the completion of the doctoral work, the King’s University in Edmonton was looking for a second faculty member in the biology department; one who could develop the plant component of the biology curriculum, and who could also teach Biochemistry, and develop other relevant biology courses. I was encouraged to apply, and ended up, after a selection process, being appointed to the tenure track position. I ended up not only teaching for twenty-four years at the King’s University, but worked together with John Wood, Harry Cook, and Heather Prior, developing and broadening the biology program, making one of the largest departments at the King’s University. Several of the students that I have mentored during these years have presented at ASA meetings. Since administration was one of my emerging gifts, I ended up serving King’s as the Vice-President Academic and Research for an additional nine years. Currently, my main interests are in Systems Biology and biological complexity. Note: The King’s University started in Edmonton in 1979. This was the same year that I started my graduate program.
I chose biology out of a love for biodiversity, a desire to better understand evolution and how it might affect my faith, and a desire to help steward creation.
I grew up surrounded by plants at my parents’ garden centre, and I loved science, so it just made sense for me to study horticulture at university.