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Heather Sheardown honoured with YWCA Women of Distinction AwardMarch 6, 2020

Heather Sheardown, chemical engineering professor at McMaster and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials, won a YWCA Hamilton’s Women of Distinction Award in the Science, Technology, Trades category.

The awards gala took place on March 5 at the Hamilton Convention Centre. 

“Winning the award is personally very satisfying but much more than that because it is a testament to the many students, many of whom are women, who have worked with me over the years,” said Sheardown.

As one of the first female engineering faculty at McMaster, Sheardown has been a trailblazer for women, fighting for equality and the promotion of women in science and engineering.

“My research group has always been very balanced, even weighted to having more women and I value being a role model for these women because I see that as the best way to increase the participation of women in STEM.”

An expert in drug delivery in the ophthalmic space, Sheardown and her company, 20/20 OptimEyes, developed a technology that targets dry eye disease, a common condition caused when eyes don’t produce enough tears. 

The technology delivers microscopic “packets” of medicine so eyedrops that once had to be administered every day can now be used just once a week. 

Sheardown was one of three women from the McMaster Engineering community nominated in the Science, Technology, Trades category. Kim Jones, chemical engineering associate professor and chair for the Ontario Network of Women In Engineering and Nipa Patel, an electrical and computer engineering alumna and test engineer at Gentherm Canada were also nominated. 

"Heather has been an inspirational mentor to students and has changed the lives of many female trainees," said Jones. "We had not one, but two nominees from the same department, which speaks to our success in elevating women."

A total of 76 women in 10 categories were nominated. There were over 30 women who had McMaster connections and five McMaster community members were among the recipients

The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honour and celebrate trailblazing Hamilton women who have excelled in their fields, and salute outstanding workplaces whose policies and practices promote women’s leadership and equal advancement opportunities.