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Lucy Li

“My #AeroPassion is there’s no limit in the sky, chase the sun.”
Lucy's Biography

Dr Li attended The University of Science and Technology Beijing for her bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical engineering in 1994 and 1997, respectively. In 2002 she joined National Research Council Canada after she finished PhD at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, the University of Bristol (UK), first as postdoctoral fellowship and then as research assistant. Dr Li is currently a Senior Research Officer at Composite Product group within Structures, Materials and Manufacturing Laboratory, Aerospace portfolio. As project manager and technical lead, she leads research teams in research areas of adhesively bonded joints, composites performance, repair technology and composites processing.

As project manager and technical lead, my primary work includes development and delivery of engineering solutions related to fibre-reinforced composite materials and structures to clients of both Department of National Defence and private sectors. My work ranges from development repair methods that can be directly applied to aircraft structures or manufacturing processes to enhance performance of armour protection equipment. I also conduct research to develop a better understanding of long-term ageing of composite materials, adhesive bonding as well as novel applications of nanoscale materials. I have also been actively collaborating with multiple international research organizations and companies through framework agreements, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and universities home and abroad to contribute to the research community.

National Research Council Canada – Aerospace has always been forward looking and keen to lead in high-impact technology development in Canada. We have played a vital role in enhancing the competitiveness of Canadian Aerospace industry by developing and transitioning many advanced technologies to Canadian aerospace companies. For example, we were the first in Canada to introduce and fully develop Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) technology for composite structure fabrication in this country. This technology has been transitioned to Canadian industry to fabricate large composite components including all-composite fuselage at a record time, high precision and low labour cost. Currently, there are six of such machines in the country dedicated for production as well as research and development.

Being an engineer at heart, I am always excited about new technology development and problem solving. What makes it even better is to work with many dedicated and intelligent people. NRC is an amazing place to work. I often feel like a kid in a candy store where expertise from frontier research to full-scale aircraft manufacturing is easily accessible, offering “one-stop shop” service to clients and a fertile ground for innovation. It is very fulfilling to be able to turn an idea to a new technology, and see it through to its final implementation. My work on CF-18 rudder repair was an example where I helped Royal Canadian Air Forces develop a new repair technology that is based on addressing fundamental issue of damage mechanism, which saved RCAF millions of dollars and enhanced aircraft availability.

I have involved in many interesting and enjoyable projects over the years. What I enjoy working right now is an ongoing project with a Canadian SME that requires performance enhancement of adhesive bonding for their final product. The project requires a range of expertise and equipment that reside within different groups in NRC, and it comes with fairly stringent deadlines for the key milestones. As the project manager, I quickly assembled a team that consists of chemists, engineers and other technical staff from three labs at multiple locations in Canada. It was refreshing to see how effective and how much fun we have working together as a team, even though I have not met half of my the team members in person! Since the official start of the project in January 2015, not only have we delivered a key objective of 30% enhancement in performance in a timely fashion, we have also built a strong and truly enjoyable working relationship among the team members and with our client. It brings a big smile on my face coming to work each day and sharing the passion we have towards what we do.

Our Composite Products group within Aerospace focuses on technology development of advanced, lightweight fibre-reinforced composite materials. As a member of the group, I feel very proud to have made a contribution in making today’s aircraft lighter and safer, in making air travel faster and more pleasant, and in reducing gas emission and which ultimately contributes to a greener planet. Every step counts. We are pleased to be able to make a positive change on people’s daily life through technology advancement.

Aerospace is an industry where dreams truly come true. Our fascination of flying has turned into reality through many breakthroughs – the first powered flight by Wright brothers in 1903, the first all-metal passenger plane Junker F13 in 1919, the first moon landing and first supersonic passenger flight of Concorde in 1969, to the maiden flight of Boeing 787 Dreamliner in 2009 (featuring 50% composite materials of the total airframe by weight) and today’s space tourism. Although there have been increasing number of female graduates from aerospace programs at Canadian universities as well as women in management, research and technical roles at NRC in recent years, aerospace overall still represents a male-dominated industry. Like many of my co-workers, I feel very fortunate to have a female director, the first in the 60 year history of NRC-Aerospace, who leads and inspires. Her care for the organization and people has made our organization a better work environment. I would certainly like to see more women like her moving up to top management positions to inspire not only women, but everyone in aerospace. In the next 25 years, I would like to see more women to join this amazing industry and turn their dreams into reality. It would be my pleasure to do my part to foster a cultural change at workplace to recruit, retain and promote women in aerospace.

I love the Ted talk “8 Secrets of Success” by Richard St. John. I could really relate to many of the “secrets” he summarized after 500 interviews with successful people. Here is one I would like to pass along: “It is all hard work, but do it for love, do it for fun – they are not workaholics; they are workfrolics!”

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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