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It’s important to instill a love of science—while showing what it is and what it isn’t—in people.

Deputy Director of Surveillance, Data & Epidemiology for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Guest host of The Nature of Things

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Meet the New Suzuki

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Jennifer Gardy speaks at the Public Salon

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DR. JENNIFER GARDY is the charismatic champion of science that we need today. Called “the next David Suzuki” by the Globe and Mail, Gardy unveils a fundamental truth that has resonated with audiences in every field: science is the invisible playbook that guides human progress—from new technologies to workplace issues to the hyper-competitive world of business. An entertaining and authoritative speaker, Gardy not only instills a love of science into audiences; she demystifies, as only she can, the scientific principles that touch our everyday lives, at home and at work.

Dr. Jennifer Gardy is the Deputy Director of Surveillance, Data, and Epidemiology for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she is responsible for managing genetic/genomic- and data-driven surveillance across multiple pathogen portfolios. Formerly a senior scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Gardy has made supremely popular contributions to CBC’s The Nature of Things (her “Myth or Science?” episodes are an edifying delight), as well as Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet. On screen and on stage, Gardy communicates the impact that science has on our everyday lives, challenging commonly held beliefs and allowing us to make more informed decisions about how we live.

When not surveilling pathogens or charming TV viewers with her scientific inquiry, Gardy’s work spans key areas such as microbiology, evolution and computer science, as well as the burgeoning field of “genomic epidemiology,” the study of how bacterial and viral genomes can be used to track disease outbreaks and epidemics. In her lab, she uses DNA sequencing to understand how outbreaks start, how they spread, and how we can use this information to stop future outbreaks. And, do we really lose most of our body heat through our head? Gardy tackles these questions – and more – in her engaging talks. She is also the author of the children’s books It’s Catching: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes, a “roll call of germs [that] makes for fascinating reading” (Kirkus Reviews), and It Takes Guts, a “deliciously digestible disquisition” (Booklist) that won the International Literary Association’s 2022 award for Intermediate Nonfiction.

Speech Topics

Public Health 2.0COVID-19 and the Open Source Outbreak
Scientists and epidemiologists have been warning us for decades about the dangers of pandemics if we don’t invest in public health. Unfortunately, global leaders chose not to heed their call, and today COVID-19 has shown us the tragic cost of being ill-prepared.
In this talk, Jennifer Gardy, the Deputy Director of Surveillance, Data, and Epidemiology for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, outlines her vision for a 21st century form of public health, or “public health 2.0.” We must ensure that the outbreaks are “open source outbreaks,” where researchers around the world can create and share vital information in real time, Gardy explains. We’re halfway there, with the COVID vaccine breaking down traditional barriers and inefficiencies in the system in order to be released in record time.
With a blend of scientific knowledge and on-stage magnetism, Gardy sheds new light on themes such as disease transmission, vaccine equity, and what public health collaboration could mean for our species. In a globally connected world with a rapidly expanding population, identifying and stopping future pandemics before they spread is more critical than ever.
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Myth or Science?

We’ve all heard a multitude of truisms throughout our lives about the world around us. Drinking alcohol warms us up on a cold day. Eating grilled meat can increase your risk of cancer. Mosquitoes prefer biting women to biting men. But have we ever taken the time to explore whether or not these are truths, or myths? Jennifer Gardy explores some of our most commonly held beliefs to reveal whether or not the science actually holds up. Do we really lose most of our heat through our head? Does eating fast cause you to gain wait? From sight to sleep, from carcinogens to cancer, from hamburgers to hotdogs, this revealing talk takes a journey through the misunderstandings, misconceptions and downright lies that fill our headlines and dictate our lives, with one simple goal—discover whether they’re myth or science.

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Grit at School
Making Science Cool

Being a scientist isn’t just about reading boring books and looking through a microscope. Dr. Jennifer Gardy puts herself in the middle of her own experiments—all for the sake of science, of course—as guest host of the “Myth or Science” episodes on CBC’s popular show The Nature of Things. Do mosquitoes bite women or men more? Is raw food better than cooked food? Do we really lose most of our body heat through our heads? Gardy knows first-hand. In this seriously funny and educational talk, she introduces young audiences to the way science impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. And, she shows that scientists don’t have to be lab-coat-wearing stereotypes—they can be just as cool (and fun and fearless) as Gardy herself.

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The Art of the GenomeMaking Music from DNA

What makes us human? Clearly our genome—the complete set of genetic instructions that encode a human being—must play a role, but where in that string of three billions As, Cs, Gs, and Ts is the recipe for our ability to create art? Language? Music? Culture? Are we the most complex creatures on earth because we have the most DNA? No. Is it the number of genes that make us complex? Nope, not that either. The answer is surprising, and lies in an area of the human genome that went largely ignored for decades. In this talk, Jennifer Gardy explores those areas, looking at the extraordinary functions contained within what used to be called “junk DNA.” To bring them to life, she uses a process called data sonification to turn the patterns in the DNA into melodies and rhythms that allow us to hear the beautiful complexity encoded in a previously forgotten part of our very own genetic code. This lecture premiered at the Thinking Digital Conference in 2014, with participants tweeting rave reviews including “unexpectedly poignant.” “hauntingly beautiful,” and “a serendipitous explosion of creativity and creation.”

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Happiness & Wellness
Busted! Separating Fact from Myth in Workplace Injury

Can medical marijuana treat chronic back pain? Does pain mean something is wrong? Is it possible to predict who will experience long-term disability and who won’t? In this talk, Jennifer Gardy looks at the science behind these questions and more, separating fact from fiction with the latest scientific evidence. She’ll also discuss how to communicate effectively with clients, empowering them to take action for a quick recovery and a healthy return to work.

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The Science of Crime

From CSI to Law and Order, popular culture has always been fascinated by forensics, and how we solve crimes. In this talk, Jennifer Gardy delves into the real factors that separate a good forensic scientist from a bad one. As it turns out, is has less to do with technology—and more to do with careful observation of the natural world. Gardy shows how understanding the world surrounding a crime scene (from bugs to botany to microbiology) can unlock the keys to cracking a cold case. Partnering the latest technologies with nature’s own detectives produces a powerful combination that is giving law enforcement new and astounding advantages in this high stakes game of cat and mouse, and in this fascinating talk, Gardy takes her audience on an undercover exploration of the science of crime.

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Featured Books

It Takes Guts
How Your Body Turns Food Into Fuel (and Poop)
It’s Catching
The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes

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