Monique Haakensen - President & Principal Scientist

Monique Haakensen

President & Principal Scientist, Contango Strategies

Monique was a DNA Day expert - view videos & learn more at

What is a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day, other than that very day is different! I am involved in a wide range of activities from scientific meetings and research planning, to writing proposals, reports and developing budgets for research projects and client-based services, to advising on regulatory applications and policy development. About 1/3 to ½ of my time is spent travelling for work, either to conferences and meetings, or to places like mines. When I’m in the office, I also enjoy getting into the greenhouse or lab once in a while to personally see how thing are going on projects.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

There are many things I like about my job. Some of the things that come to mind include working in a team environment and always having new problems and questions to attempt to solve. I also really enjoy the day to day variety I get in my work and being able to make a positive difference for real world problems.

What is the least enjoyable part of your job?

There really isn’t anything I dislike about my job. I suppose for other people, they might not like the number of hours my job requires, but that doesn’t bother me.

Explain the path you took to get to this job (education, internships, etc.).

As is the case with many scientists, I didn’t attend university with the objective in mind that this is what I would be doing. I started in undergraduate sciences and chose microbiology as my focus for my Bachelor of Science by my third year. I completed that degree with honours and then pursued my Master’s of Science, which I was able to challenge and take oral and written exams to proceed directly to a PhD. In my final year of my PhD I also worked full time as a Professional Research Associate in order to gain more work experience.

Who or what was the greatest influence that set you on this path?

I can’t think of one single greatest influence as there have been many people and factors involved in how I’ve gotten here. Having a very supportive husband and family has always been important throughout my education and career.

What advice would you give others seeking a similar job?

Ask a lot of questions of people with jobs that you think you might be interested in. Find out what their jobs are actually like and don’t just assume based on what you think the job would be like, or on how interesting (or uninteresting!) the classes are to get that job. There are many different paths that can be taken to get to a number of different jobs, likewise, some paths can lead to a number of job options. Don’t have a narrow focus on your options.

How does your job make a difference?

The projects my team works on help to clean water and soils at mines, oil and gas operations, and industrial sites. This makes a difference in the impacts these essential operations have on our environment.

How do you use science, math and technology in your job?

Science, math and technology are part of nearly every aspect of my day to day job. Not just the job itself, but everything that makes my job possible from getting to work to using my cell phone and computer. We apply science, technology and math every day in our projects for clients, and internal projects to develop new services and technologies.

Is there one course you wish you had taken in high school but didn’t? Why?

I took every math and science course offered in my high school as I wanted to keep my options open for University. We didn’t have career or educational advisors at my high school, so I took everything I could because I didn’t want to limit my options.

What makes this job right for you?

This job fulfills the things that are most important to me in my life. For me, as the owner of the company, it isn’t just a “job”, but is my lifestyle. The choices I have made have resulted in a career that provides me with the ability to influence my circumstances and have my thoughts and ideas put to use. I also have the ability to continuously learn in a variety of areas and have the opportunity to improve the world around me.

What's the most bizarre or silliest thing you’ve ever done in this job?

There’s probably a lot of things I could put here… DNA-related would likely be sequencing the bacterial community in snail poop (just for the fun of it… it’s nice having your own DNA sequencers to play with!).

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I enjoy the outdoors, camping, fishing and hiking. I also have two dogs and a cat that I like to spend time with (and my husband!). Gardening, cooking and baking are also pastimes I enjoy.

You just won $10 million! What’s the first thing you’d do?

Travel!! I would use the money as an opportunity to visit all sorts of interesting places I would never get to see otherwise. Of course, many of these would be related to my work, and I would collect samples of interesting contaminated sites or extreme environments to bring back and study in our lab. I would also put a large amount of it towards building our very own research facility that suits our laboratory and pilot-facility needs rather than renting.

CurioCity Careers

We hope you enjoyed learning about this great STEM career! The information in this career profile was provided by this individual especially for CurioCity. We hope it helped give you a sense of what this type of job is really like.

Let’s Talk Science is pleased to provide you with this information as you explore future career options. Many careers require a background in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Even jobs that don’t use specific STEM concepts on a day-to-day basis benefit from the skills gained through a study of STEM. People with a STEM background are very much in demand by employers across all career sectors. If you would like to learn about more careers that have a STEM connection, visit

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