What do you do?
As a professor, my main roles divide into three categories of teaching undergrad and grad courses, service to the university and relevant organizations and most importantly research. I have established a research lab which I lead and supervise grad student, undergrad research assistants, postdoctoral fellows and assistant engineers. As a lead scientist, may main roles divide again into three categories of management where I direct a research program funded by the government, business and innovation development where I am responsible for bringing new partners and projects to our center, and research where I conduct and occasionally supervise research-and-development projects myself.
Why did you choose this field?
I think it was a combination of many factors, some motivated and some obligations! I was always into math and geometry in high-school. Where I grew up (Iran), we needed to take a national exam to compete against all other kids who wanted to enter government-sponsored universities. The competition was quite serious because there were millions of participant (my country was at its boom of young generation) and they all wanted to get into these universities (since they had top-quality and we paid no tuition fee). I was ranked pretty well in this contest, and thus, could select my major of interest. I liked to actually choose architecture as my major first. But, I don't have much artistic talent I guess (or at least not in drawing). So, I chose civil engineering instead which was the closest to building design (to my little understanding of engineering programs in 2004). What I didn't notice at the time of selection that the civil engineering program I had chosen was a double major, civil-geomatics. When I got into the program, I learnt that it is rather geomatics-civil :) That meant, I mainly had geomatics engineering courses and few civil engineering. In the first semester, I decided to change program but the rules stated that I had to stay for at least two semester, prove that my GPA is among the top 20% of the destination program and then I would have been allowed to join that program! Staying in geomatics engineering for 8 months, I grew to actually love the field, and stayed in it for master's and PhD too.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I believe my immigration to Canada was a wise decision and a brave action, but I wish I had done it earlier. Comparing my youth to that of my students here, I see so many opportunities that a young student can benefit from to grow personally and professionally.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love systematic problem solving. Design solutions to solve scientific and technical problems is one of the key elements of engineering, and it keeps my mind active, fresh and enthusiast all the time. Feeling that at the end of each project, I had contributed to the advancement of my field and that I helped a partner organization to get closer to their business goals is pretty fulfilling.
Best advice for next generation?
Do not be afraid and do not doubt your capacities! Girls need to believe in themselves and pursue their passion in whatever field it is, and if it is in STEM, then don't allow anyone, any negative thought, any superficial judgement, or any other challenge to stop them. Gender has absolutely nothing to do with success or failure in STEM!
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
“Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations.” by Mae Jemison