Anyone can become a rocket scientist.
Just ask Natalie Panek. The space
engineer and aspiring astronaut grew
up in Calgary and studied engineering
at the University of Calgary. These days,
along with working toward being an
astronaut, Panek spends a lot of time
encouraging girls and young women that
they can be rocket scientists too.
The self-described “champion for
women in tech” is on a mission to
inspire women to consider careers in
science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM). She’s just one in a
growing chorus of voices. A number of
universities, schools and organizations
have programs to encourage girls to
Creating opportunities for youth
WRITTEN BY JENNIFER ALLFORD
PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAUGHING DOG PHOTOGRAPHY
pursue fields that were once considered
Cybermentor, developed by Elizabeth
Cannon, a geomatics engineer and the
U of C’s president, pairs teenage girls
with female mentors working in STEM.
At the University of Alberta, the Women
in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and
Technology (WISEST) program gives
high school students summer jobs as
research assistants in areas that are less
traditional for their gender. Girls work in
engineering or science, and boys work in
nursing, human ecology and nutrition.
“There are a ton of programs, starting
in high school and the university level,”
says Lauren Albrecht, who researched
women in STEM as an Alberta Innovates
(previously Alberta Innovates – Health
Solutions) media fellow and is now
completing a PhD in pediatrics at the
U of A.
“It’s really important that we have
opportunities to see women working
in all sorts of careers and being
Researchers such as Lauren Albrecht are helping to create opportunities for youth in
science, technology, engineering and math.
There are a ton of
programs, starting in
high school and the