Empathy may not be the first word you associate with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). But for a new generation entering fields in STEM, research and responsibility go hand in hand.
Kate Arpin (BSc’21) says she strives to make a difference through “scientific inquiry, leadership and empathy.” For her master’s studies at UBC, Arpin is developing a DNA testing kit to help understand how a small mountain-dwelling mammal called the American Pika is dealing with climate change. “You don’t have to single-handedly save the world,” she says. “What’s important is doing what you can, being open-minded, and helping others. Just improving the world in any way you can.”
It’s an attitude echoed by Jack deGooyer (BEng’21), who studies nanowires and low-energy computing with light at the University of Waterloo. “Engineers in many ways are tool-makers, and I’m really interested in what tools you can develop using quantum mechanics,” he says. Beyond getting caught up in exciting research, says deGooyer, who did a co-op at Tesla’s battery-testing lab in Halifax, it’s important for engineers to acknowledge their social responsibility. “Engineers need to recognize that they are designing stuff inside larger systems and be careful about the way their work impacts others” as well as the environment and society.
Both deGooyer and Arpin received scholarships while at Dal from the Schulich Leader program, now in its tenth year. Schulich Leaders are nominated to apply by teachers at their high schools who look not only at academics but also community leadership. Arpin, for instance, led a research project in Grade 12 looking at the effects of local pollution on water fleas.
Another Schulich scholar, Amanda MacLean (BEng’19), came from a rural high school, where she was recognized for her wealth of volunteer activities. At Dalhousie, she promoted engineering as a career for women. Now a data analyst for the federal government, she continues to do outreach work as co-chair of Engineers Nova Scotia’s Youth Engagement Committee. “I hope to set an example for young women, but further, for young people, that engineering is an enriching, fulfilling career,” she says.
deGooyer is one of the younger students MacLean helped mentor. “She really helped me a lot through my undergraduate,” he says.
Helping others is part of the ethos that drives her and other young leaders in highly competitive fields. “I think my ultimate goal is always to leave somewhere better than when I came,” MacLean says. “I find most struggles I’ve encountered are worth the pain, as long as the next person struggles less.”