Timothy Caulfield, LLM, FRSC, FCAHS


Cape Cod, MA, USA (but I think of Canada and Edmonton as home)

Current Residence
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Graduate Degree
BSc; LLB (Alberta); LLM (Dalhousie)

Current Position
Canada Research Chair in Health Law & Policy; Trudeau Fellow and Professor, Faculty of Law and School of Public Health; Research Director, Health Law Institute, University of Alberta

What is the current focus of your research?

Our terrific team uses both empirical and conceptual approaches to explore the policy challenges associated with stem cell research. We have analyzed how best to regulate the field and the social forces that have shaped the policy debates using a range of methodologies, from traditional legal methods, to structure interviews and surveys, to systematic media analysis. And our team reflects this breadth. Our work is very international in scope. Indeed, that is one of the great assets of working with the ISSCR. We have, for example, a linguist, a qualitative research, a science and technology expert and, of course, legal scholars. It is a great team.

We are currently doing a good deal of research on the marketing of unproven stem cell therapies, including an exploration of the scope, nature and drivers of this challenging problem.

What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?

When I was in law school, I had the opportunity to do research in the area of health law. I fell in love with both the interdisciplinary quality of the issues and working with the scientific community. Few areas hold as much promise as stem cell research, but it also raises unique and profound ethical and legal dilemmas. From the perspective of science policy research, it is the perfect area to work in! 

How do you spend your free time?

Do people have free time? When this rare commodity does appear in my life, it is filled with cycling (preferably sprinting on a velodrome), movies, books, music and family.

What is one thing your peers would be surprised to learn about you?

I have a severe problem with motion sickness, which is not a great trait for someone who travels. In fact, my fear of getting sick is one of the reasons I abandoned my (sad) attempt at a career as a rock musician. I couldn’t handle the long drives between gigs so I stayed in university! Thank you, nausea.

Feel free to share more on the abandoned rock career.

I had a reasonable "career" in music (and have the bad ears to prove it). One of my bands opened for The Ramones. The New Wave band I was in during the ‘80s had a "record" (yep, real vinyl) release on Much Music (Canada's MTV) and a terrifyingly cheesy video. I always joke that if I had a bit more success I'd be working in a record shop now. Someone (no idea who) recently posted version a one of our New Wave singles, Love and Work (lame ref to Freud), on YouTube. Cringe. You must picture me in skintight leather and Flock of Seagulls hair.

What do you like most about living and working where you do?

The University of Alberta has been extremely supportive of our research. It has a rich and dynamic research environment. And Edmonton is an ideal place to raise a family. True, the winters can be extreme. But a few days of blinding snow and minus 40 Celsius keeps the mind sharp! Plus, believe it or not, Edmonton has the world’s best coffee shops.

What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?

The ISSCR has been tremendously important to my career and research. It has allowed me to work with – and build collaborations with – scientists from throughout the world. These linkages are invaluable to interdisciplinary research. It has also allowed me to be involved in international policy debates.


View additional ISSCR Member Spotlights