Graduate Student Takes on Public Policy

Jessica Ross from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering is recognized by the Canadian Science Policy Centre for her impressive proposal

Left to right: Minister Duncan, Jessica Ross, Mehrdad Hariri

Phosphorus is essential to life as we know it on Earth, and Master’s student Jessica Ross explains this clearly in an important policy proposal that has garnered her recognition. During a research project, Jessica came across the curious discrepancy between the use of this substance and the lack of public awareness surrounding it. “I came upon this topic through a chance encounter […]. Over the course of my readings and experiments, I learned that Canada is one of the largest importers of phosphorus for fertilizer production. The resource required for phosphorus fertilizer production is in a specific form known as phosphate rock. It is not well known that there is a finite global phosphate rock reserve. My fascination grew at the mismatch between the information available in scientific journals, and the popular awareness of the topic,” she explained.

Jessica is studying for a MASc in Chemical Engineering with a specialization in Science, Society and Policy; her findings, coupled with her background, served as the inspiration for her proposal, entitled “Securing phosphorus: Contaminant or commodity? Rethinking food for our future.” The Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) put out a call across the country last year for proposals for its second annual Science Policy Awards of Excellence. This national competition is an opportunity for individuals under the age of 35, working in any discipline, to present a novel idea for a policy that could have a positive impact in the lives of Canadians.

This challenge presented Jessica with the perfect opportunity to apply her studies and propose solutions to an issue that could one day affect the country. “As a student of this program, I study the geopolitical forces that bring such topics into the public consciousness. Understanding what tools and actions are available and required to allow a country to take action before a forecasted problem becomes a crisis may help to shape a strategy to inform Canadians about the upcoming global phosphate rock limitation that will ultimately impact the availability and cost of food.”

The awards were presented at the 2016 Canadian Science Policy Conference by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science. View the Award Ceremony.

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