Alumna off to Antarctica for climate research

By Krista Habermehl, MA'05


It’s the trip of a lifetime.

More than 70 women with a background in science will embark on a three-week excursion to Antarctica where they will network, learn about climate change research and engage in leadership training.

The ship departs from Ushuaia, Argentina in February of 2018 and Western alumna Cathy Sorbara, BMSc’06, is already anticipating the journey.

“I never, in a million years, thought I would be doing this. My background is in neuroscience and although I was always interested in climate change and wanted to take on a more science communication role, I never thought I would be destined for something like this,” said the current COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association, a start-up company based in San Francisco, Calif.

Cathy Sorbara, BMSc’06, is one of 70 women from around the world participating in Homeward Bound, a 12-month virtual leadership training course for women with a background in science that culminates in a three-week excursion to Antarctica in February of 2018.

The excursion to Antarctica is the culminating experience of Homeward Bound, a 12-month, ground-breaking leadership and strategic science initiative and outreach opportunity based out of Australia, aimed at heightening the global influence and impact of women with a background in science.

Sorbara, who currently chairs the Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering – in England – first learned about the initiative when a participant of the 2016 inaugural Homeward Bound program spoke at the organization’s AGM.

“She gave a talk about what she did, her experience and showed a video of their journey. I was just completely floored. I had to be part of it,” said Sorbara.

The talk was on a Wednesday, and applications for the upcoming program were due on the Sunday. “I essentially spent the next few days furiously doing everything I could to ensure my application was up to scratch. In the back of my mind, I thought, ‘I don’t have a climatology background. This won’t be for me. I’ll never get accepted.’ But, on the application page, they insisted they were looking for a diverse group of women to take part. I was beyond excited when I found out my application was accepted.”

Leadership training began the first week of April, with Sorbara and fellow participants from around the globe participating in virtual meetings twice a month. In addition to leadership training courses, the women will also take part in various projects focusing on areas of interest they’ve self-identified.

For Sorbara, whose current professional role involves working with academics who would like to transition to a career in industry, Homeward Bound is the perfect opportunity to elevate her own leadership skills and share what she’s learned with others.

“I’m constantly hearing from people – especially women – who suffer from ‘impostor syndrome.’ They don’t know what they should be doing next and feel stuck, even though they are these brilliant PhDs, with brilliant minds, and can really make a difference in the world. I thought I really have the ability to take this on, and hopefully, share what I learn and show them they can make a difference – that they belong at the leadership table.”

And that’s really the driving force behind Homeward Bound – to give women leadership and strategic skills and a strong network to impact policy and decisions toward a sustainable future. According to the Homeward Bound website, women are globally underrepresented in leadership positions yet make up a significant percentage of postsecondary graduates entering the workforce.

“I think we’ve come a long way in terms of women’s rights and what women can do now, and I think we should be proud of that. But, at the same time, there’s still this huge gap in women in leadership roles. There’s all these studies that show women in leadership positions bring so many amazing qualities … It just makes sense we bring this type of leadership training to the people who have those qualities,” said Sorbara.

“It’s important to me, personally, because I also go through impostor syndrome. I’m not really sure where I fit at the leadership table. I know I’d love to lead and have the opportunity to inspire other people but, who knows? I think this journey is taking me to a whole other level that I never thought I’d be able to go. It’s going to be inspiring for me and I hope, in turn, I can then inspire other people to do the same.”

As part of the deal, Sorbara is tasked with raising $16,000 to help fund a portion of her trip. She’s currently seeking corporate sponsorship and hopes to return the favour by engaging in speaking roles once she returns from her journey to Antarctica. She has also launched a crowdfunding page at for those who wish to support her involvement with a charitable donation. For more information about the Homeward Bound initiative, visit: