Student Type: Women in Technology Scholarship Recipient

Yasmin Dibai

IN HER OWN WORDS: When I was 11, my dad began teaching me about world-renowned physicists, theorists, and scientific concepts. So, my love for math and science really started then. One of the concepts I did a presentation on at school, was about the Fabric of the Cosmos. When my principal saw it, he recommended me for a Ted-X talk in our region, and I was accepted. This was a defining moment for me as a young girl. I continued exploring my love for math and physics in high school. I was certain that engineering was the path for me. But I wanted to choose a discipline that truly contributed to society. Then the year I was graduating, Simon Fraser University (SFU) started a program called Sustainable Energy Engineering (SEE). I was thrilled! It seemed like the perfect way to pursue my love for math and physics, as well as target climate change.

Growing up, I had no idea women were oppressed, since gender was never an issue in my home. I was never told that I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl. I was taught to think “I can do this because I’m Yasmin, and I know my skill set.” It wasn’t until high school that I encountered that kind of thinking. That I was too “girly” or “bubbly” to pursue a science or technology based career. Some people even seemed surprised when I’d raise my hand in class and have the right answer. But those attitudes only fueled my desire to pursue a career in engineering, without compromising my femininity. To prove that professionalism and personality are not exclusive. But I was lucky to already have a strong sense of confidence, and I want to pass the unbreakable confidence my parents instilled in me, onto other girls.

I found the Women in Technology Scholarship when I was searching for other opportunities to uplift women in tech. When I read the criteria, it seemed like they really matched my morals, technical skills, and passions. So, I applied. But when I got the news that I’d received the Scholarship and $10,000, I was shocked! It felt like a huge confirmation that my hard work was paying off.

Through co-ops and personal projects at SEE, I have spent a lot of time learning about energy-efficient building systems. In fact, 40% of annual global emissions come from buildings! By designing efficient HVAC, power and lighting systems, global emissions will be lowered. I currently work at a green consulting building firm, where I’m learning best industry practices for efficient building design.

I also run a group at SFU called Women in Clean Tech (WiCT), which connects science and technology students, while emphasizing the need for women in tech careers. Although we pursue many projects, one of our initiatives is designing the ideal work environment. As the lead on last year’s design team, we competed in an international sustainable building design competition, and were the recipient of the Rising Star Award! I was flown out to the conference in Atlanta, Georgia after we won, and I presented our design with two teammates. My responsibilities on the design team consisted of leading a team of 18 members. I think the competition really proved to me that I could apply the technical concepts that I had learned at my co-op. That I had grown as an engineer.

As astronaut Ronald J. Garan Jr. once said, “We are limited only by our imagination and our will to act.”

That is what the Women in Technology Scholarship means to me.

No limits.

Meghan McCreight

Meghan is from Vernon, BC from a family who enjoyed the outdoors and from whom she learned and developed her passion for the environment.  So much so, in fact, that she decided to become an Environmental Engineer.  She is excelling in this effort and recently received a $10,000 Women in Technology Scholarship in recognition of her impressive academic achievements.

Meghan graduated from the Water Engineering Program at Okanagan College in December 2021 and is now pursuing an Environmental Science Degree at the University of Victoria. She hopes to pursue a career in water sustainability as a Public Health Officer for municipal water systems.  She was inspired to pursue this career path by the incredible experience she had in her Co-Op job with the City of West Kelowna working in the water distribution department, where she got firsthand experience working with disinfection and public health monitoring.

For the last 10 years, Meghan have been working as a millwright helper. During this time, she worked alongside a number of men who voiced the opinion that woman do not really belong in the engineering industry. But this negative feedback did not change Meghan’s mind or alter her plans. She was determined to be an engineer and was confident she could take on and succeed in this challenging career.  “Having the opportunity to meet other successful women at the Women’s in Technology Recipients’ Event, assured me that we are the next generation to make a change- we are a legacy- and we can help other women to become whoever they want to be”.

Meghan is a young woman who has already spent a great deal of time working in a male dominated industry, and she appreciates and values diversity in the workplace. Meghan encourages all young women to follow their dreams, to do what inspires them and to apply for a Women in Technology Scholarship.

Sophie Collins

“I want to show Indigenous women we need to hold a presence in the room and be enrolled in tough courses because we are capable of being in those classes and being the top students in those classes.”

Sophie is from Esk’etemc (Alkali Lake, BC) on her my mom’s side and from the Woodland Metis Tribe on her dad’s side. Born and raised in Kamloops, she describes herself as a “numbers person” who has always enjoyed explaining numbers to other people.

Sophie is studying Physics and Mathematics/Statistics at Thompson Rivers University. She has been interested in Physics and Applied Mathematics since high school, partly because she had two “amazing” high school physics teachers.

Sophie recently received an Indigenous Women in Technology Scholarship (WITS)

To be a recipient of this scholarship is a huge accomplishment for me” explained Sophie. “It has been a great help with tuition expenses during my final year of undergrad studies, and I will be putting some of it aside for when I attend grad school in the coming years. Winning the award has also confirmed that the stress I had been managing during my studies has been worth it.”       

The Indigenous Women in Technology Scholarship has had a very positive impact on Sophie’s education including an opening up of dialogue with professors about how to tie in aspects of Indigenous values and technologies with Western education approaches.  She is currently developing a presentation for the Physics and Mathematics Departments at TRU on “Indigenizing” the curriculum as a step towards Reconciliation. In addition, the financial assistance that the Scholarship has provided has relieved some of the stress of paying for tuition and allowed for greater flexibility in employment obligations and education-related work terms.  This has allowed her to spend more time volunteering as a speaker and mentor for the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology and for simple rest and recharge.

Sophie decided to apply for the Indigenous Women in Technology Scholarship because she fitted the criteria and because she was not being funded by her parents or through her Indigenous community.  She was reluctant to apply at first, feeling she had little chance of winning the Scholarship, but her sister convinced her to take the chance.

Sophie encourages other students to apply for a WIT Scholarship “The application process was straightforward and easy”, she notes.

Maria Phelan

Maria was inspired to pursue a career in engineering by her father, a civil engineer.

My father taught me the difference between having something done and having something done well, and the importance of really taking pride in what I do.”

Maria is currently studying Engineering Physics at UBC going into her fifth year.  And, for all of us who have no idea what Engineering Physics is really all about, Maria explains that it is a combination of electrical, mechanical and computer engineering. The program also includes courses in mathematics.

At first, she was interested in medical school because it provided opportunities to help people, but she decided to undertake a career in engineering so that she could continue using her math skills.  In fact, Mathematics has always been her favourite subject and her favourite part of being an engineer. “You can learn to use math, and programming skills to solve a variety of problems”, she says with enthusiasm.

On the question of providing better support for girls K-12 who may want to pursue technology careers like engineering, Maria commented: “I would like to see engineering talked about more in school. When I graduated, I chose to go into engineering because it had good job opportunities and would let me use math skills but, I really had no idea what the field was all about. I would have been much more confident going into engineering if I was educated about it.”

When Maria heard that she was the recipient of the Women in Technology Scholarship, she thought it was unbelievable.

Receiving this scholarship means not only a recognition of my academic achievements but also of things I do outside of school and that led me to my academic career: being a part of the engineering physics mentorship program, as well as engineering student teams on campus. Also, the challenges I overcame to get to the point.”

As a woman studying and working in a profession that is largely male dominated, Maria has encountered many challenges. She found that often she is the only woman in the room, and that on one occasion she was told that women do not have as much technical  aptitude as men. But that is a sexist stereotype, Maria notes. “This devalues my accomplishments and the accomplishments of other women. Worse, it causes me to feel  personally inadequate and to question my accomplishments and work.”

Maria is also thankful for the scholarship because it will allow her to consider options for graduate school. Maria is interested in the field of data science and machine learning and this scholarship has opened opportunities to study these subjects further.

In the future Maria would like to work in the harm reduction tech industry. She believes that technology can do immense good connecting people to the help they need.

And for all girls who are thinking about studying or working in tech, Maria suggests: “You have all the skills and abilities you need, do not doubt yourself.”

Maria is an inspiration for all those who cross her path. Congratulations Maria!

 

 

Sophie Lin

Find something you are passionate about and pursue that passion. Do not be afraid to ask other people for help. Dive deep into your passion and it will lead you to something good.”

Originally from China, Sophie moved to Vancouver when she was 9 years old and has since called the West Coast home.

Sophie enjoys working with her hands and is a very hands-on person. From an early age, Sophie knew that her dream was to study engineering. Sophie’s strongest skills are problem solving and being a fast learner, which have contributed to her academic success. During high school Sophie was a member of her school’s “Robotic Club” which brought students together to build and design their own robots.

Sophie recently finished her second year studying Mechanical Engineering Mechatronics Option at the University of British Columbia. Her studies involve engineering systems that have motions, electronics, computer software, and control. In other words, robots.

The robots Sophie has built can do many things, including shooting a ball at a target and transporting objects. One of her biggest projects involved building a robot that picked up medical supplies and transported them to a drone that delivers the supplies to another site.

Currently, Sophie is a member of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Design Team at the University of British Columbia where she has continued to assist in the building and development of unmanned ground vehicle for drone system robots.

Sophie is also the founder and president of Surrey Robotics Innovation Lab, a community organization that helps youth develop the necessary skills to succeed in competitive robots’ competitions and empower them to become the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. The Lab runs workshops in various high schools in the Greater Vancouver area teaching engineering and technology skills to students. Sophie hopes that these workshops will inspire other women to pursue careers in engineering.

Sophie is expecting to graduate in 2024. Afterwards, she envisions herself working in intel and continuing to make a positive impact in her community and beyond.

Sophie is extremely grateful for being awarded the Women in Technology (WIT) Scholarship as it will allow her to continue to pursue her passion, her extracurricular activities, and her learning.

Being awarded the WIT Scholarship gives me a responsibility to give back to the community and to the Society as well. It means a responsibility to give back to others, and to educate others in technology and engineering, and hopefully empower them as well”.

Sophie has received other awards as well, including the Connect to Community Award from the University of British Columbia for her community organization work. Using the funds from this Award, she has created workshops about equity and inclusion in the Engineering field, among others.

Sophie also recognizes the importance of staying active and having a hobby and she enjoys longboard dancing. She has a YouTube channel where you can watch Sophie dance on her longboard all around her university campus.

Parmis Mohaghegh

Combining creative thinking and engineering to solve important problems and improve the lives of people 

Creative minds express themselves in a myriad of ways. For Women In Technology (WIT) scholarship recipient Parmis Mohaghegh, that creative problem solving brain paired with an affinity for math has helped her realize her dream of studying Engineering at UBC and to one day develop medical technologies that will save lives. She lists being awarded the Irving K. Barber WIT scholarship as one of the greatest accomplishments of her life, proving that she can do almost anything she puts her mind to. And that is something she couldn’t be more right about.

Originally from Iran, Parmis moved to Houston, Texas when she was a teen and later to Vancouver, BC as an adult to pursue a career in science and technology. Growing up with supportive parents that valued education, Parmis was always motivated to realize her potential. “I was also lucky to be surrounded by ambitious friends and classmates, a lot of whom ended up in science or technology related fields. All of that gave me a lot of courage to pursue what I was passionate about and to not limit myself based on my gender,” she explains. A math whiz and lover of the arts, it was clear to Parmis that she wanted to do something in the sciences field, but she wasn’t exactly sure what that would be until she had a life changing experience at 16.
“There are a few times in life so special that they stand out in the sense that, from those moments forward, life significantly transforms from one kind of perspective to another,” Parmis shares. This transformative experience happened when she was volunteering at a paediatric cancer research and hospital center in Iran. “During my time as a volunteer, I witnessed how a disease like this can ruin children’s lives and the lives of everyone around them. It was heartbreaking to see children suffering so much, but I could still see hope in their eyes as they struggled on, laughing through the pain,” Parmis shares. The hospital had some of the most cutting edge technology in the field and Parmis was able to witness first-hand how science and technology could decrease suffering and save the lives of these children. “Being personally involved with children suffering from a life threatening disease gave me a life goal. I realized if I became an engineer, someday I might be able to solve important problems and improve the quality of life for people.”

Armed with a mission, a brilliant mind, and a strong work ethic, Parmis embarked on her journey at UBC. It isn’t a “cake walk”, and being a woman in the science and technology fields can have its own set of challenges. “Of course, there has been the occasional professor who firmly believes that women’s brains are not fit for physics and mathematics, but I’ve also had wonderful and supportive mentors in all the places that I’ve lived who taught me to believe in my abilities and pursue my passions,” she shares, “That’s why mentorship is crucial for women in these disciplines. Having role models who have found great success shows us that with perseverance and passion we can find our place in currently male dominated fields.”

Being awarded the Women in Technology Scholarship not only enabled Parmis to pursue her studies by way of financial support but, also offered her the extra added confidence boost to become one of those greatly needed mentors. “Receiving this scholarship was a confirmation of my abilities and reminded me that despite how I feel sometimes, I belong in my chosen field,” she beams. “I met great people and gained more confidence to do my part for promoting equality. In 2019, I started volunteering for the women’s advisory committee of the City of Vancouver, which provides advice to Council and staff on enhancing access and inclusion for women in the city.”

After completing her 3rd year in Engineering Physics and her first coop program at the UBC Robotics and Control Lab, where she focused on the development of new artificial intelligence technologies for biomedical engineering, Parmis entered her second coop position with a software company called Thoughtexchange. “I’m working on content moderation and natural language processing,” Parmis explains. “One thing that I always look for in a company is that they provide equal opportunities and value diversity. I firmly believe that a key way to foster creativity in any field is through diversity.”

As accomplished as Parmis is and intimidating as she may seem, she is incredibly humble and believes that anyone can achieve what she has with a little gumption and hard work. “No one feels confident at the beginning. Pursuing a career in tech, while very rewarding, can be a bumpy ride sometimes,” she states. “But if you are passionate about something and are lucky enough to be able to pursue that passion, you owe it to yourself to not let your fears get in the way. As Nelson Mandela says in one of my favourite quotes — ‘Everything is impossible until it’s done’.”

We are so happy to have been a part of Parmis’ story and wish her all the best as she goes on to save lives, change perceptions, and motivate others to pursue their dreams.