In this series, we sit down with a few of our leading scientists and researchers at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC), a world-renowned materials research and development centre for Xerox with a successful track record of taking materials research from concept to market in a highly competitive technology environment. For the next few weeks, our featured innovators will share their passion for innovation and how their work is helping businesses in Canada (and around the world!) work better.
Tell us about your role at XRCC?
I have an operational role as Manager of the Materials Science Area at the Research Centre. Our area is a really dynamic and multi-disciplinary team of chemists, materials scientists, and physicists and we work on both fundamental and applied problems in materials science. We tackle challenges such as developing new materials and processes for 3D printing and printed/flexible electronics. We also have deep expertise in the evaluation and characterization of materials and surfaces. I feel really lucky to be a part of this fun and talented team.
Additionally, I have a technical role as the Program Manager for our Strategic Research Program. In this position I’ve had the opportunity to shape the strategic direction of some of our research as well as work with the Project Managers and technical teams on delivering our technical objectives. I really enjoy having the chance to get involved on various research projects, I never get tired of trying to solve tough problems. Also, since our project teams tend to be very interdisciplinary, this role gives me the opportunity to interact with people from all across the Research Centre.
I also work with our business development team. XRCC has a growing Client Services Business that provides contract R&D and Scale-up Engineering to other organizations. I really enjoy working with our clients to figure out how we can put XRCC’s expertise to work for them and help them achieve their business and technology goals.
(Editor’s note: Michelle is also Adjunct Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON.)
How long have you been with Xerox? What made you decide to join?
I’ve been with Xerox since 2007. While I was an NSERC Post-Doctoral Fellow in Montréal, I met a chemist who was working as a Research Scientist at XRCC. When she described to me the type of commercialization-oriented, interdisciplinary science that was happening there, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. I visited the centre and was really impressed by the science and even more so by the incredible group of people I met. I was also struck by the number of women in senior technical and leadership roles. It felt like a really special place and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
What inspires you to be innovative?
I’m inspired by putting science to work. Coming together with a creative group of people to tackle a challenging problem is a lot of fun. It’s really satisfying to work with a team to find a great solution to a tough scientific or technical question, or figure out how to improve a product or process. The scientists and engineers at XRCC are a really creative bunch, with so many different backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas, it’s impossible not to be inspired.
I also firmly believe that innovation is at the heart of driving economic growth and solving many of the challenges we face today as a society. My inner geek loves science and innovation for the pure excitement and discovery but, as a parent, I’m also incredibly inspired by my kids. It’s my job to be innovative so that I can do my part in making this world a better place for them to grow and thrive. I also want to show them how important, and how fun, science and innovation can be.
What projects are you excited to be working on?
I’m really excited by and proud of the work we have been doing in printed electronics. Xerox is a pioneer in the field of printed and flexible electronics, particularly in the area of materials, and it’s exciting to be a part of building the future as this technology comes to market in a real way. Over the last year we have dramatically expanded our capabilities in terms of what and how we can produce objects and devices by printing. I’ve really enjoyed working on this with the team.
What are your passions in life? How do you spend your free time?
This might be stating the obvious, but I’m pretty passionate about science. I think it’s really important to have a populace that understands and values science; this starts with kids in pre-school and includes everyone all the way up to our politicians and policy makers. I’m fortunate to be able to devote some of my free time to science outreach activities. I’m also passionate about diversity and over the last decade have served with different organizations, like the Xerox Women’s Alliance employee resource group, that work to promote gender balance, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.
The rest of my time is for family. My husband and I have two little boys and we love spending time outdoors – camping, cycling, or just goofing around and getting muddy. Sports are an important part of our lives. Everyone plays soccer and I’ve just started my newest role as a hockey mom. We also volunteer with Eden Food for Change. It’s a nice way for us to teach the boys how important it is to give back to our community.
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