Metro Workology is focusing on careers and education in the engineering sector for the month of March to celebrate National Engineering Month. Check back every Wednesday.
Engineering is a versatile discipline, with professionals working in medicine, wildlife conservation and forensics in Canada and around the world.
Elizabeth Cannon, Dean of the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary, says engineers build bridges, cars and buildings, but it’s also more widespread and cutting edge.
“The evolution of the engineering discipline has been going on for a long time, but sometimes we suffer from some of the stereotypes,” she says.
One of those stereotypes is that engineers are men, but Cannon says 24 per cent of her students are women and she works hard to increase that number. “Women students do very well in our programs … and when they go out in industry, they again do very, very well.”
Health-inclined engineers can go into biomedical engineering, which has engineers create new devices, such as robots that perform brain surgery.
“Engineers have a very direct and significant impact on the evolution of how medicine will be performed now and into the future,” Cannon says.
Geomatics, Cannon’s field, builds GPS technology for in-car navigation, smartphones and even tracking grizzly bears. The wildlife trackers help conservationists, biologists and policy makers.
“The collection of data and the interpretation of data is what we do in the engineering field, in addition to actually producing the devices,” she says.
Engineers can also specialize in building robots that work in danger zones, like search-and-rescue or mine detection.
“Engineering is a career that can really allow you to make a difference in the world,” Cannon says. “You can work in the office, in the field, locally or internationally.”
Gilles Amirault is a forensic engineer with Calgary-based Samac, but he admits he hadn’t even heard of forensic engineers before he became one. He found the job posted online after graduating from Dalhousie University’s co-op mechanical engineering program in 2004.
Forensic engineers visit the scene of vehicular accidents and use applied physics and dynamics to work out what happened. Using police markings, they take photographs and detailed notes, speak with police, inspect the vehicles, get witness information and then reconstruct the incident with computer software.
“It’s determining the speed of the vehicles involved, who went over the centre line, who was at fault, who could have prevented the incident, who could not have,” he says. “It’s really interesting.”