I can’t pinpoint exactly when I developed my passion for science. If you ask my mother, she’ll smile and say I was just born with it, as she recounts stories of me waking up early in the morning to watch The Magic School Bus or Bill Nye. She’ll also tell you with a slightly less kind expression of the numerous times she would come home from work to find me on the floor of the kitchen elbow deep in my latest “experiment,” various kitchen supplies strewn around the room. Flour, baking soda, eggs, vinegar… nothing was safe from my eager imagination. I loved making baking soda rockets and dissolving egg shells in vinegar. I saw the world around me and I wanted to know how it all worked.
My parents, probably hoping to save any further damage to the kitchen, gave me a simple light microscope and slide kit on my sixth birthday. While I was romping around the neighbourhood collecting samples to examine, my Barbies and tea set (gifts from my aunts) gathered dust in my room. That was the beginning.
As I grew older I was also gifted with a subscription to Discover Magazine and the complete set of Britannia encyclopaedias. Soon I was absorbed by the mysteries of the solar system and the intricacies of molecular life. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could and my mother finally conceded and bought a yearly membership to the Toronto Science Centre. The science centre was where it all sunk in; amid the life-sized dioramas of the world’s ecosystems and the vast array of hands-on exhibits I decided I wanted to study science for the rest of my life.
So, naturally, when it came time for me to choose a university degree I choose to remain in the field that had fascinated me since my childhood — however, I added a twist. I loved learning about the world and the way it worked, but now I was eager to apply my knowledge. This is how I discovered the field of engineering.
Throughout my high school years I had never taken the time to research engineering. I was quite set in my ways, and determined to study science as far as it would take me. I thought that engineers were simply the worker bees of the world, building bridges and designing engines. But as the date approached for me to submit my university applications I found myself curious. What allowed engineers to build those bridges and how did they manage to integrate all of those gear systems? What I found led to my ultimate decision to apply to a duel degree program in both science and engineering at the University of Ottawa.
Engineers are not simply the worker bees of the world. They are also masters of translation. Engineering couldn’t be more aptly described than applied science. Engineers review the research available and apply it to the world around them, providing solutions to problems that we face day to day. Recently, I had a reason to thank the engineer who designed the auto-shut off on toaster oven, without whom I may have returned home to find a scorched building where my apartment once stood.
Now, as a science student I learn the molecular reactions and the mechanisms of life and as an engineering student I apply them. That little girl inside of me who once marvelled at the world still continues to look around herself in awe, but now she’s ecstatic because she can see can put her knowledge to use. I love studying science and engineering and I can’t wait to see where it leads me in the future.