Prof. Molly S. Shoichet, 2015 Laureate for North America

Molly S. Shoichet was rewarded for her pioneering approach to biomaterial development to regenerate damaged nerve tissue and for her development of a new method to deliver drugs to the spinal cord and brain.

Polymer Chemistry

Professor of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, Chemistry and Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering

University of Toronto, Canada 

Professor Molly Shoichet, a polymer scientist, is putting chemistry in service of medicine in spectacular new ways. She focuses particularly on promoting repair in diseases such as stroke, spinal cord injury and blindness, all of which involve “disconnections” in the pathways formed by brain and nerve cells. Her goal is to find ways to restore these lost connections. One strategy involves stem cell transplantation, and Professor Shoichet aims to overcome a major hurdle that could lead to truly miraculous cures: the difficulty of keeping transplanted stem cells alive long enough for them to integrate into the nervous system. To accomplish this she is engineering new materials that will enhance stem cell survival and integration. The other strategy involves finding ways to stimulate the stem cells that already exist in our brains so that they can mend damaged tissues. In this case, the challenge is to design new methods for delivering drugs directly to the brain. Both of these new strategies, for stem cell delivery and drug delivery, rely on the high-tech polymers that are Professor Shoichet’s field of expertise. She and her team are also creating new materials that will selectively deliver drugs directly to cancer cells, thereby overcoming some of the terrible side effects of current treatments.


According to friends and family, such dazzling advances in medical research can be attributed not only to Professor Shoichet’s brilliant mind but also to her consummate people skills. Befitting the motto of her lab, “Solving Problems Together,” she is also quick to praise others for their work and her approach is passionately multidisciplinary, bringing together scientists, clinicians, engineers and others in an effort to provide solutions to some of the biggest challenges in medicine.


Professor Shoichet is the only scientist—male or female—who has been elected to all three of her country’s science academies, the Canadian Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Yet, along with her many accomplishments in the laboratory and her dedication to her family, she also finds time for a wide variety of activities ranging from participating in special athletic events for people with spinal cord injuries to helping anti-racism organizations, to launching a social media campaign, Research2Reality, designed to “connect today’s research with tomorrow’s reality.” 

For Women in Science

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