Erin M. McConnell is currently an NSERC postdoctoral fellow and the 2018 NSERC and L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science supplement award winner. She is based in the Functional Nucleic Acids Research Group led by Professor Yingfu Li, in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.
McConnell’s research focuses on using DNA nanotechnology to solve real world problems. She specializes in using two different classes of DNA molecules, called aptamers and DNAzymes which act as recognition elements, to build nanoscale tools with applications ranging from human health to water quality. Currently, she leads a team of interdisciplinary researchers who are working to develop an easy to use, inexpensive, paper-based device, using DNAzymes for the detection of pathogenic bacteria in water.
McConnell completed her Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Maria C. DeRosa at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Her thesis focused on the selection and use of DNA aptamers for applications within the central nervous system. For this work, she was awarded a Senate Medal for Outstanding Academic Achievement (2016). McConnell received her B.Sc. (honours) in neuroscience with a minor in chemistry from Carleton University in 2009. McConnell is extremely passionate about mentorship and science outreach. She has acted as an experimental mentor for over 25 students ranging in experience from science fair competitors to Ph.D. candidates.
She has been actively involved in science outreach for over 10 years – volunteering her time and sharing her expertise with curious minds of all ages through organizations like Let’s Talk Science, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Chemical Institute of Canada, McMaster University and Carleton University. She particularly enjoyed delivering “Chemistry Magic Show” programming for organizations like the Ottawa Public Library, the Canadian Science and Technology Museum, and Girl Guides of Canada.