Women in STEM and their stories: Birgit Nielsen - video


Descriptive transcript

Descriptive Transcript – Birgit Nielsen

[Background, blue with white line followed by 2 circles appearing, one red on left, one white on the right]

[Animated text appears in first red circle, "turning challenges", then in the second white circle, each letters fading in to say "into opportunities…" while background is pulsating blue. Fade out.]

[Birgit Nielsen in front of a white background, speaking to the camera.]

Birgit Nielsen: Early in the pandemic, there was a global shortage of nasopharyngeal swabs

[Text on screen: Birgit Nielsen,] Birgit Nielsen Industrial Technology Advisor

Birgit Nielsen: used for COVID testing. To make sure that Canada had its own reliable supply of swabs, the Canadian government set a priority to establish swab manufacturing in Canada.

Before the pandemic, Canada didn't have any swab manufacturers. Now there are more than 10 companies that can manufacture swabs at high volumes and meet the demands for COVID testing.

Our work will ensure that there are enough swabs to test Canadians for COVID-19, which is key to managing the pandemic and flattening the curve.

I'm working with a team of colleagues across the NRC, government and industry to ensure that the swabs used for COVID testing are effective and readily available. First, researchers are testing the characteristics of the swab and the ability to pick up the virus. Second, at IRAP, we're supporting a clinical study that tests the swabs in COVID patients.

Some of the companies that are producing swabs have come from other sectors such as aerospace and automotive and are pivoting. These companies will strengthen the medical device sector within Canada, which is important not only now for the pandemic, but also for the future health of Canadians.

These have been challenging times for business, but also for individuals. And for me working from home, especially on the COVID projects, sometimes with very long hours, the lines between work and private life tend to blur. Now I'm taking the time that I usually would have to drive to work, and I'm using it in the mornings to take a walk by the river before I start the day.

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[National Research Council of Canada]

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