Logan Banadyga recalls being a “gangly, introverted, pimply faced teenager” entering a “small green and white classroom in a small low-slung, red-bricked school in a small and beautiful prairie town.” He retells the experience of wonder and awe at learning about the intricate mechanics of the heart and the wonder of the processes involved with the circulatory system. Little did he know that from those halcyon days, he would become one of the world’s foremost researchers in virology and immunology, working on some of the world’s most virulent and infectious diseases and their vaccines. 

That idyllic prairie community was Wadena, and the Composite School gave the inquisitive and driven scientist his earliest start. Banadyga was named the 2023 inductee to the Horizon School Division’s Wall of Fame. He reflected on past honourees that have included Olympic medalists and Juno Award nominees – he confessed mild bemusement but great appreciation being among them. In an entertaining and erudite 15-minute address, Dr. Banadyga had his audience of hundreds of school educators and support staff laughing, applauding and utterly enthralled with the glimpse of his world. 

Banadyga took his audience back to his science classes and the mundane but formative work growing mold on bread and writing term papers on viruses. The scientific method he was exposed to took hold, and through his undergraduate studies at the University of Alberta, he refined his interests, eventually targeting molecular virology. He’s studied and worked at high level containment labs, dressed in pressurized gear that mimics space suits, and endured lengthy processes to enter and exit his work facilities safely. From learning about fowl pox viruses to wrestling with the threat of Ebola and other potentially lethal organisms, always mindful of those small-town beginnings.  

“Several out of town, ‘big city’ friends and family members would tell me that I only got good grades because I went to school in a small town, where all the teachers were somehow ‘less-than,” and the lessons they taught were somehow easier. Wait until you go to university - then you’ll see.” 

Banadyga’s accomplishments have laid waste to the “small town limitations” perception. His path took him to graduate studies, a small town in Montana that housed a research lab studying Ebola, and eventually back to Canada and Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory, with the country’s only maximum containment labs.  

Banadyga is firm that the work that he and his scientific community do produces results that ultimately stem potential and real-time disasters. 

“Science is the best way humans have devised for figuring out what is going on in us, around us, and beyond us. It is a self-correcting framework for capturing observations, establishing facts, and rendering some kind of understanding about who we are and what our place in the universe might be. Science has put people on the moon and super-computers in your pocket. For decades it has warned us of the damage we are doing to our planet, and for decades hence, we will rely on it to correct the mistakes we haven’t yet learned to stop making.” 

The audience exploded into applause when Banadyga reminded listeners that science has “brought us vaccines, which are by the way, real and safe and effective, which have eradicated entire diseases and vastly improved the quality of life of everyone in this room.” 

With wit, humour, wisdom and humility, Banadyga conveyed respect and appreciation for those “small town” people in his life who have helped him to make the enormous contributions he’s been able to in his career.  

Enjoy the full address by Dr. Logan Banadyga.  

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