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Dr. Stephen Waldman appointed Associate Dean, Research and External Partnerships

Dr. Waldman’s proactive approach to research partnerships and funding is a hallmark of his career
July 01, 2021
Stephen Waldman

One of Dr. Stephen Waldman’s many strengths is his extensive service on grant peer review committees and on the College of Reviewers of national and international granting bodies, including the Canada Research Chairs program, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the European Scientific Foundation. He brings this valuable experience to his new role as Associate Dean, Research and External Partnerships.

“Among other priorities, I am committed to helping faculty and students to be highly successful in their funding applications,” he says. “The better we can prepare for and can get ahead of funding opportunities, the more competitive and successful we will be as a Faculty.”

Dr. Waldman describes himself first and foremost as a problem solver. “I like to improve things. I have an internal optimization drive that I bring to everything I do. I also know that the best we can be—individually and as a whole Faculty—comes from working together. Our people are our greatest asset. One way to capitalize on that is to build collaborations among students and faculty. That generates new insights, which form the foundation of key research partnerships with external bodies.”

Dr. Waldman uses the word “proactive” a lot. His strategic approach to establishing and nurturing those external partnerships begins with identifying strengths, filling gaps, and achieving clarity about what individual researchers and the Faculty as a whole can provide for other organizations. This equips FEAS to actively advance Ryerson’s strategic vision of boldly confronting society’s most pressing challenges and creating new opportunities to improve lives.

“Because our world and our immediate context change rapidly, it’s not easy to answer fundamental questions about what we do best and where we are headed,” he says. “We need to know that in order to position ourselves on the forefront of change. Our people are dynamic and enterprising. I want to tap into that advantage and be proactive about our external partnerships.”

Dr. Waldman’s own area of research and subsequent partnerships grew out of an earlier trial-and-error phase of life. As an undergraduate, he wanted to conduct research in orthopedic implants. Later, he switched his focus to soft tissue devices like bioprosthetic heart valves. Neither area wholly excited him, so he transitioned again, this time landing on cartilage tissue engineering and establishing The Waldman Lab, a partnership between the Department of Chemical Engineering, the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology (iBest) and St. Michael's Hospital. The group focuses on the engineering of functional cartilage constructs suitable for joint resurfacing, spine repair, and ear and tracheal reconstruction.

“I realized that I wanted to work with living systems in a new, unmapped area,” says Dr. Waldman. “That required moving out of my comfort zone, which is something I share with my students. I tell them, don’t feel tied down to one area just because you started there. Keep asking yourself what you care most about. And don’t be afraid of other disciplines and bringing different paradigms together. I find that incredibly energizing.”

Dr. Waldman’s research has received several awards and distinctions, including a Canada Research Chair (Tier II), Early Research Award, and Chancellor’s Award (Queen’s University). He was also recently named a Fellow of International Orthopaedic Research. In addition to supervising and co-supervising numerous graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, he has authored or co-authored over 230 publications and has been awarded over $20 million in research funds.

Beyond his extensive experience securing funding and establishing productive partnerships, Dr. Waldman has also served as the Interim Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program Director. He characterizes his leadership style as engaged and collaborative. 

“My emphasis is on building cohesion among faculty so we are all headed in the same direction with the same purpose: to be innovators and agents of positive change,” he says. “That doesn’t mean erasing differences. In fact, diversity and variety of perspectives generate creativity. It does mean nurturing ideas and cultivating talent. I see that as critical to my role, along with transparency in decision-making and open communication.”

“If I want people to say one thing about me,” he adds, “it’s that I did what I said I would do: create an open and shared process for growth and change.”