Celebrating Women in Science

In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016, we asked some of Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) women in science about their chosen profession. Here’s what they told us.

Photo of Shelley Huntley

Shelley Huntley, Ph.D.
Field of Expertise: Blast hazards engineering

What excites you about your field of science?
What I enjoy most about the work I do is that I can easily see the applicability of my job and how it impacts the public. Having a tangible outcome to my work motivates me to put forth my best effort. Also, having the opportunity to work out in the field, instead of just at my computer, is exciting. I find working with my hands helps me learn, and the time spent out in the field with my team members builds a different sort of camaraderie from what we share in the office.

What advice would you give young women considering a career in science?
Take enthusiasm and dedication with you every day of your career, whether it’s in your university classes, your first job, or your dream job. It’s also important to be confident and remember that you are as capable as anyone else. It takes exposure to many different projects and situations to develop your career and experience. Just stay interested and involved, and don’t be afraid to be assertive!

Photo of Shanti Singh

Shanti Singh, Ph.D.
Field of expertise: Thermal hazards of energetic materials

What excites you about your field of science?
In the work that we do, at some point there is an issue – whether it’s uncovering a problem, or getting an absolute answer or formulating an ‘informed’ opinion – and getting to that point is completely rewarding. Every now and then, there’s an awesome revelation that really is exciting, but the personal satisfaction of doing a good job throughout goes a long way towards job fulfillment.

What advice would you give young women considering a career in science?
Diversify your experience during your high school/undergraduate years and onwards – be it through volunteering, co-op terms, summer internships, study/volunteer opportunities abroad etc. – they are all worthy regardless of the field. A science background is learned, and many times learned while on the job, but the ways of working with people and presenting ideas are important leadership skills.

Photo of Zoé Perin-Levasseur

Zoé Périn-Levasseur, Ph.D.
Field of expertise: Forest biorefinery, energy efficiency / process integration

What excites you about your field of science?
Working as a process engineer is very exciting: every day brings new challenges and new problems to solve. The work is often done as a team, which helps develop collaboration skills and complementary scientific approaches. One has to be creative to solve problems on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to learn something different every day is also thrilling.

What advice would you give young women considering a career in science?
Don’t hesitate to jump in the action, ask questions, and believe in yourself and in your capabilities. Coming out of your comfort zone will allow you to challenge yourself and increase your self-confidence and leadership abilities. Mentors can also help us overcome what may seem to be limitations since having a more experienced role model when facing challenges can really make the difference. If you have a passion for science, stay motivated and keep going no matter what!

Photo of Marie-Claude Williamson

Marie-Claude Williamson, Ph.D.
Field of Expertise: Geological evolution and economic potential of large igneous provinces

What excites you about your field of science?
The most exciting aspect of my research has to do with the wide range of geological scales that we investigate as a science team. Our mandate is to understand how entire continents get pulled apart to accommodate new oceans; how magma rises to the earth’s surface as a result; and how specific metals eventually accumulate as economic deposits in this type of environment. The geological expeditions that we carry out in remote areas of Canada’s North are also extremely rewarding because we are challenged by weather and logistics at every step.  Above all else, the people I work with – colleagues at NRCan, and collaborators at universities and in industry, at home and abroad – fuel the passion and dedication I feel for the work I do.

What advice would you give young women considering a career in science?
If science excites you, then don’t hesitate to let that passion inspire your career choices!  Always keep in mind that what you do provides a snapshot of who you are at every stage of your professional life. Never forget to enrich your scientific career with all the talents you own as a person. Think of yourself as an archer carrying arrows in a back quiver. These are your talents, you own them, and you will carry them along for your entire life. Become the expert on what each arrow can do to enrich your career as a scientist, whether it is music, leadership skills, a special talent to teach or the need to care for others. Take a regular look at your personal inventory of talents/arrows, and use them to guide your decisions and enrich your professional life. 

Photo of Solange Nadeau

Solange Nadeau, Ph.D.
Field of Expertise: Sociology of natural resources and the environment

What excites you about your field of science?
What excites me about my field is the fact that most projects are conducted directly with people and have the potential to impact forest management or forest governance. In a country with a lot of forests, it’s important!

What advice would you give young women considering a career in science?
Take some time to explore what really speaks to you. You might be good in many disciplines but think about what really gets you going. Don’t worry if it’s an unconventional mix, we need a diversity of people: those who dig deeper in a specific field and those who build bridges between disciplines.  

To read more about NRCan’s scientists, visit the NRCan Web site.