Engineers: Always Inventing the Future

March 03, 2017

Written by: Natalie Lim

When you think of an engineer, what's the first image that pops into your mind? I know that for me, it's someone who spends all day drawing on blueprints, designing bridges and buildings (and for some reason, they're always wearing a hard hat). And that's certainly one aspect of engineering - civil engineers spend their time building roads, tunnels, airports, water systems, and much more. But civil engineering isn't the only kind there is! March is National Engineering Month here in Canada, so we thought we'd spread the engineering love by exploring some of the less well-known, but no less important, ways in which this discipline affects the world around us.

Janet Conrad with one of her patients. Photo: Techsploration

Biomedical Engineering

This discipline has only recently emerged as its own sub-section of engineering, and involves projects having to do with medicine - for example, designing prostheses, researching tissue engineering (e.g. creating artificial organs), and working with hospitals to make surgeries safer. A career in biomedical engineering can be incredibly rewarding, because the work that you do has a direct, positive impact on people's health. For instance, biomedical engineer Janet Conrad works in a lab that studies people with knee arthritis, collecting data that helps to improve arthritis treatment for various types of patients. You can learn more about Janet here!

Peggy Matson with one of Motorola's computers. Photo: Techsploration

Electrical Engineering

Peggy Matson likes to say that as an electrical engineer, she gets to "invent the future" every day. Currently, she's working at Motorola, developing new broadband technology in order to give firefighters and police officers access to videos, maps, and other data while in the field. You can listen to Peggy talk more about her job here! Although Peggy works a fairly specific job, the discipline as a whole has broad, far-reaching effects. In fact, if you've ever used GPS or sent an email, you've come into contact with the work of an electrical engineer. By working on robots, faster and smaller computers, and even airplanes, electrical engineers are inventing a future that we can be excited about living in.

Marielle Thillet posing with some local wildlife. Photo: Techsploration

Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineers use their knowledge and expertise on a daily basis to protect the planet we all call home. This can mean anything from studying air pollution and the effects of global warming on the planet, to developing laws that promote environmental sustainability. If you care about keeping the environment safe for future generations, environmental engineering is for you! In Nova Scotia, Marielle Thillet spends her days monitoring the activities of a natural gas field, working to protect the surrounding area from pollution and minimize the impact of drilling activities. You can watch Marielle tell her story here!

Sarah Sternbergh. Photo: Engineers Canada

Geological Engineering

Geological engineering is another great choice for the nature lovers out there - these scientists combine earth science and engineering to ensure that construction, mining, and civil engineering projects are executed safely, and make sure that human activity doesn't cause landslides, erosion, or flooding. Ontario's Sarah Sternbergh, P.Eng., M.Eng., splits her time between office work, such as meeting with clients and planning projects, and field work, such as drilling wells or collecting water samples. Her job is fast-paced, requiring lots of creativity and problem-solving abilities. You can learn more about Sarah's job here

Having an engineering degree opens up the door to an astonishing number of careers, all of which affect our everyday lives in ways we sometimes can't even imagine. One of the best ways to introduce girls to STEM careers is to detach these careers from stereotypes, showing that they have practical applications that make the world a better place. By working to expand our concept of engineering, we can make sure that people know it's not just about blueprints and hard hats - it's about creativity, helping others and the environment, and forward thinking. We're thankful for these women and the important work they're doing, and we're so excited for the next generation of engineers to build on their work and create a more sustainable, healthier future for all. 

If you want to learn about more non-traditional engineering jobs, check out part two of this series! For more information on any of the jobs listed here (and many more), you can check out the National Engineering Month website, as well as the WISE Atlantic Engineering Career video series. Wondering why STEM is a good career option for your child? Our White Paper series can help.