TORONTO — Ignite Your Passion was the theme of the University of Toronto (U of T) Engineering’s fifth annual Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) National Conference.
More than 300 leading academics, industry professionals and students from across Canada convened at the two-day conference held Jan. 21 and 22 at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
"It's hard for students to meet women in leadership positions," said Syeda Anjum, a third-year chemical engineering student and conference chair, in a statement. "We are helping them build a strong network. Our speakers include software developers, neurosurgeons, physicists, biologists and engineers. There is something for everybody."
The conference focused on opportunities for inspiration and mentorship and the schedule included a three-minute thesis competition, a career fair and business consulting case competition. Opening remarks were delivered by Cristina Amon, dean of U of T Engineering.
"As we face increasingly complex global challenges, it is more critical than ever that the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields reflect the rich diversity of our society," said Amon. "There are robust studies that clearly show that different perspectives and backgrounds deepen the creative process, spark new collaborations and areas of inquiry, and accelerate innovations that improve people's lives."
At U of T Engineering, researchers are growing human heart, liver and muscle tissue outside the body to repair damaged organs; creating low-cost water and energy systems for remote communities; and developing new ways to collect, store and transport clean energy, Amon noted.
"I believe that few professions foster the spirit of innovation as ours does," said Amon. "After all, scientists and engineers are making some of the most important contributions to our society, from health care and biomedical innovation, to infrastructure and smart cities, to artificial intelligence and robotics."
In addition to the conference, WISE organizes a number of events including a mentorship program for high school students, including presentations at over 20 schools in the Greater Toronto Area; workshops with Girl Guides of Canada and Covenant House; community outreach, such as the screening of the documentary She Started It with Johnson & Johnson Labs in the MaRS Discovery District; organizing its own annual International Women's Day panel discussion; and partnering with the Young Women in Engineering Symposium.