Shad Laurentian

Program Directors

Thomas Merritt, PhD

Professor in the School of Natural Sciences

Thomas (he/him) is happy to be returning to Shad at Laurentian University where he is a professor in the School of Natural Sciences.

Thomas’ research explores the connection between genetic diversity and biological complexity. Research in his group focuses on metabolism, stress, and genetic networks often using the fruit fly model system, but some projects involve microbes, vertebrates, or a variety of invertebrates and locations range as far as regional lakes to deep underground in an active nickel mine. In one project, Thomas and his students are using fruit flies, a treadmill, and the SNOLAB particle physics laboratory, located two kilometers underground, to understand deep underground physiology and stress biology.

Thomas’ contributions also extend beyond the academic setting and into the non-scientific community. As a committed science communicator and partner with Science North, Canada’s second largest science centre, Thomas has shared the importance of genetics research as a TEDx speaker, educator, and writer. For over a decade, he has curated a science art show, most recently in partnership with Science North. His pop-sci article on trapping flies – and the science of model species – has almost 550,000 hits on, an on-line academic news source.

Outside of science, Thomas is an active paddler and rower and runs a ParaSport program making these sports accessible to people with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities. Since 2007,, the award-winning program has supported both high-performance and recreational athletes and is a central feature in accessible sport in Northern Ontario.

Jessica Martin, OCT

Secondary Teacher

Jessica (she/her) has been involved with Shad since 2018 in a variety of different roles. Beginning with her time as a program assistant at Shad McMaster, she continued with Shad as Program Manager for Shad Laurentian for the past several years before taking on the role of Co-Director.

Jessica completed her undergraduate degree in Forensic Science and Chemistry at Laurentian University and her Master’s in Chemistry from the University of Ottawa. Continuing her passion for science and learning, Jessica received a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Ottawa and is now a high school teacher in Ottawa teaching chemistry and biology.

Beyond education, Jessica finds joy in sharing experiences with her family and friends. She is an avid animal lover as she shares her home with her three dogs, frequently exploring the outdoors with them. In her leisure time, Jessica finds relaxation in reading a good book, playing musical instruments and in the intricate world of puzzles.