December 4, 2005Her job: Professor of Engineering, Associate Chair , Carleton University
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I am a full Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Carleton University. I am the co-author of a bunch of technical papers related to the numerical simulation of manufacturing processes such as welding as well as a number of papers related to women in engineering. Recently I published a book for families coping with cancer.
Why did you choose engineering?
I suppose you could say I was born into engineering: I grew up in a house my parents designed and built together at a time when shortages of building supplies were still a problem. I literally had my little feet in wet concrete. I began school in a one-room schoolhouse with a pot-belly stove and no plumbing! It made quite an impression, as did the first-ever breaking of the sound barrier over Ottawa when I was in grade two. As a teenager, I was required to pull my weight in the family and I remember my first removal of the mower and installation of the snow blower on our garden tractor with tremendous satisfaction.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
B.Eng. mechanical engineering, M.Eng. in Materials, and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering all from Carleton University.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
When I worked in industry in my early career, I was an engineering analyst. Now, as a professor there are three parts to my position: I teach, I do research and I do administration. At the moment I am the Associate Chair (Undergraduate) in my department. This means I spend a fair amount of time talking to undergraduate students.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
Every day is just a little bit different. There are classes to teach and students to talk to and programs to arrange. There are papers to write and students to supervise and new material to learn.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
As a teenager I was most proud of my athletic accomplishments. As a young engineer I enjoyed seeing a task through to completion. Lately, I find that helping students achieve their goals is very gratifying. Of course, I am also a parent and seeing my three children succeed is also very rewarding.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
There are challenges in every career. There are difficult courses in school: there are decisions to be made about moving or staying in a particular city; there will be choices in accepting or declining career shifts and balancing family and career. For me, the most significant challenge was adjusting my long term career aspirations when my husband died.
Please tell us a little about your family.
Throughout much of my journey as an adult I was accompanied by Alan Oddy. We met in first-year engineering and married after third-year engineering. We pursued, at the same times, our bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees as well as our respective careers. Combining family and work was a challenge but together we have moved forward, welcoming Sarah in 1989 and our twins, Andrew and Carolyn in 1994. They are bright, active and thoroughly busy young people. It's amazing to think that Sarah starts her own program in Chemical Engineering this fall. Alan died in 2001 from cancer so we have had to move on without him. Our family includes a variety of feathered and furred friends.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
I had a number of teachers who inspired me at key times in my schooling but my parents were the most important influences. My mother was a gifted artist and much-loved science teacher. She showed me her love of children and her gift of teaching. My father was a military engineer (mechanical) and an author of military history. From him I learned especially how to cope with change and when I wrote my book, I remembered the long nights he had spent on his books.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
You go girl!