Currents of Change: Inspiring, Creating, Transforming

Currents of Change: Inspiring, Creating, Transforming

Friday 5 June 2015

A Word from the WiSE

By Umna Arshad, Mechanical Engineering Student & Women in Science and Engineering Club (WISE) Executive, University of Guelph

Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) is a University of Guelph student organization dedicated to supporting and encouraging women and girls who are interested or engaged in science or engineering careers. WiSE works towards fostering an academic environment where both female and male students can promote the participation of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.

Throughout North America, universities and colleges are taking aggressive steps to recruit and retain females in STEM fields. Looking at recent statistics, there are more than 50% females enrolled in science programs while there are less than 20% enrolled in ‘TEM’ fields in Canada.

Interestingly, University of Guelph’s engineering community holds female enrolment at almost 30% and was named the first Women Friendly Engineering School by the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation. Further, Guelph has consistently ranked first with the percentage of female Engineering faculty members compared to other universities in Ontario. One such faculty member is Jana Levison (EIT) who is a Water Resources Engineering professor at Guelph. Previously, Dr. Levison was a postdoctoral fellow at the Université du Québec à Montréal, working on multidisciplinary ecohydrological modeling related to climate change. Her research projects look at how climate change may impact groundwater quantity and/or quality in rural settings. The objective of one of her project is to define and quantify the transport of excess nutrients, specifically nitrogen related to cash crop modifications and variable weather, into groundwater to anticipate and mitigate potential water quality impacts. Nitrate concentrations in groundwater will be examined and modeling will be used to determine if groundwater contamination will be impacted in case of varying climate conditions. Another project Dr. Levison is working on focuses on investigating the potential opportunities and challenges for agricultural production limited by the availability of groundwater supplies and environmental constraints in a rural setting. An improved understanding of watershed dynamics in an intensive agricultural setting in the context of climate change will be beneficial for agricultural and water management sectors.

By 2020, 95 000 professional engineers will retire resulting in a huge skill shortage and the big untapped skill pools are women. Professionals such as Dr. Jana Levison (EIT) are making some of the biggest advances in our society and with half of the population being female; we deserve to have the female perspective; it will only get better with the female perspective.

Umna Arshad is a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Guelph and an executive for the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) club at Guelph.  She is focusing on Interdisciplinary Mechanical Engineering Design and hopes to pursue her career in renewable energy, more specifically, solar and wind energy.

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