Mechanical engineering professor, Dr. Kajsa Duke has been awarded the first ever Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour award, which recognizes the recipient’s individual commitment to diversity in STEM that exemplifies the attributes and spirit of Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour.
Dr. Armour, who passed away this past May, was a professor of chemistry at the University of Alberta. She was world-renowned for her research in hazardous chemical waste handling and disposal, as well as a champion for women in the sciences.
Dr. Duke was recognized with the award because of her participation in a program run by Women in Science, Engineering, Scholarship and Technology (WISEST), which places high school students in science and engineering laboratories that are “less traditional” for their gender roles. Every second summer since 2010 Dr. Duke has taken a student entering grade twelve to work on a project designed specifically for that student to complete over the course of 6 weeks.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for the students,” says Duke. “They are paid internships and so the students don’t have to sacrifice income and they can spend time thinking about their careers and what they might be good at and enjoy.”
This summer Dr. Duke collaborated with Dr. Lindsey Westover to supervise two female high school students in their biomechanical laboratories.
“Collaborating with Dr. Westover this summer was great because it expanded the students’ experiences,” says Duke.
Dr. Duke received the award at the wrap event for the research programs.
“I was totally surprised,” says Duke. “They talked about the award and I thought, ‘I’d like to get that one day.’ And then they called my name!”
To be recognized so soon after Dr. Armour’s death is especially touching for Dr. Duke.
“It feels like I am the bridge between Dr. Armour - all her amazing work, and the generations to come. I feel very fortunate.”
Dr. Armour encouraged women in the sciences and engineering to see how fortunate they were, even as they faced the challenges of working in non-traditional fields.
“The thrust of Dr. Armour’s message was that, as scientists and engineers, we are really very privileged,” explains Duke. “Our education is a privilege and because we have that privilege, we need to work to help others find their way into and through these non-traditional fields.”
For Duke the most important outcome for WISEST research students is the opportunity to see various ways to approach and enter careers in science and engineering.
The WISEST summer research positions are entirely sponsored by donations. You can find more information about the program here. You can also visit Dr. Duke’s university website.