How COVID upended engineering — and created new opportunities for progress on public health

Women in Engineering Society hosts panel event next week

- March 25, 2022

Amina Stoddart, a Dal engineering prof, will share her perspectives on the pandemic's impact on engineering at next Thursday's event.   (Danny Abriel photo)
Amina Stoddart, a Dal engineering prof, will share her perspectives on the pandemic's impact on engineering at next Thursday's event. (Danny Abriel photo)

Although some people may not realize it, engineering impacts every aspect of our lives. From the keyboard you type on to the water you drink, each sector of our society requires the expertise of an engineer.

That’s why when the world was upended suddenly by the COVID-19 pandemic, so, too, was engineering.

“While the pandemic has been incredibly challenging for us all, I think it has also led to new opportunities,” says Amina Stoddart, an assistant professor in Dalhousie’s Department of Civil and Resource Engineering.

Dr. Stoddart joins fourth-year electrical engineering student Jade Farr and high school student Tyra Obaden from Sydney, N.S. for the “Engineering for Health in a Pandemic” virtual panel next Thursday (March 31).

“Throughout the pandemic, many engineers have focused efforts on pandemic response, which has accelerated advances at the intersection of engineering and public health,” adds Dr. Stoddart.

The panel, organized by Dal’s Women in Engineering Society (WiE), will explore how the pandemic has transformed areas such as engineering education, innovative technologies, and helped shine a spotlight on sectors such as biomedical engineering and environmental engineering.

“From an engineering contribution, we have seen advances in materials science for personal protective equipment, improvements in indoor air quality, and the emergence of the field of wastewater surveillance—just to name a few,” says Dr. Stoddart. “All of these contributions will have a lasting effect beyond COVID-19.”

Supporting women in engineering

Next week’s event is part of WiE’s “Women of Today” panel series, which aims to educate young women on the career opportunities available with a degree in engineering and the impact the profession has on society.

Over the years, WiE has worked to close the gender gap in engineering by facilitating events, mentorship support, workshops, and career development opportunities to current and future women engineers on Sexton Campus.

“I think it’s important to have this demonstration of what engineering looks like in different sectors and how it varies by age and demographics,” says Katelin Flick, vice president of social for WiE and an organizer of next week’s panel discussion. “People can learn more about these different topics, and we can expose more people to the industry.”

Flick says there are still many misconceptions associated with the field of engineering, and a lack of understanding as to how it applies to the real world. She hopes that next week’s panel will showcase to women how the pandemic has opened new doors to the next generation of aspiring engineers.


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