Mona Nemer

Mona Nemer is the chief science advisor to the Canadian government. Her passion for science began at an all-girls school in Beirut, Lebanon. When she first enrolled, there was no program available for students to study science, so she and a group of her peers successfully advocated for its creation. 

In the mid-1970s, Lebanon faced civil war. Nemer knew she wanted to continue her studies in science and decided to complete her undergraduate degree in the U.S. She came to Wichita to live with an aunt and her family, and enrolled at Wichita State University. Her transition was made somewhat easier by the city’s large Lebanese population, and she quickly gained her academic footing. After graduation, she pursued a doctorate at McGill University in Montreal. Upon its completion, she held faculty positions at the University of Montreal and the University of Ottawa.  

Throughout her studies and career, Nemer pioneered research focusing on heart development and function in relation to heart failure and diseases. Her work led to the development of diagnostic testing for heart failure and cardiac birth defects. Nemer has published more than 200 scientific articles from her research, but her proudest achievement is the collaborative discovery of the GATA4 gene, which is essential to the body’s production of heart cells.  

 In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Nemer as Canada’s chief science advisor, where she guides Canada in becoming a leader in global science and works to keep government-conducted science publicly accessible. In both 2020 and 2022, Trudeau reappointed Nemer to serve additional two-year terms in the role. Perhaps most notably, Nemer helped lead the country through the COVID-19 crisis, and Trudeau commended her work in helping Canadians understand and respond to the pandemic.  

 Nemer has earned numerous recognitions. She received the McDonald Scholarship from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; Women of Distinction Award from the Women’s Y Foundation of Montreal; Léo Pariseau Prize in Biological and Health Sciences; Jeanne Manery Fisher Memorial Lectureship Award from the Canadian Society of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology; Marcel-Piché Prize; Arthur Wynne Gold Medal; and McLaughlin Medal of the Royal Society of Canada. Additionally, she is a Member of the Order of Canada, a Knight of the Ordre national du Québec, a Knight of the French National Order of Merit, and a Knight of the French Legion of Honor. She is an elected fellow of four national science academies. 

Nemer is a 1977 graduate of Wichita State University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and minors in French and mathematics. She earned a PhD from McGill University in bioorganic chemistry. Additionally, Nemer holds honorary doctorates from Wichita State University and universities in France, Finland and Lebanon.