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Diana Facchini

My advice for finding and engaging with a mentor is to be clear about what you hope to gain from the relationship, to be respectful of what your mentor gives you, whether it be time, referrals, advice, etc., and to be honest with yourself and them if the relationship is not working out.

Diana Facchini is a Business Development and Industry Liaison Manager and a Principal Investigator with the Office of Research and Innovation at George Brown College, Toronto. She received her Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours) in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2002, and Master of Applied Science in Materials Science and Engineering and Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2005. As a student, she received the Stelco Undergraduate Scholarship (now known as the US Steel Canada Undergraduate Scholarship) in 2000 on the basis of strong academic performance as well as demonstrated leadership qualities. Ms. Facchini went on to graduate from her BASc with a Wilson Medal in 2002, recognizing her as the top graduating student in her program that year. During her time as an MASc Candidate, Ms. Facchini held a University of Toronto Open Fellowship and an NSERC Post-Graduate Scholarship, both of which require a “first-class average” of a minimum of A- (80%+), thus providing further confirmation of her exemplary academic achievements.

An accomplished Program Manager and Researcher, Ms. Facchini has over 7 years industrial experience leading advanced material design, development, validation and commercialization programs in the aerospace, defense, biomedical, automotive, industrial and consumer goods sectors. Ms. Facchini has worked for a variety of private and public sector companies as a researcher and project leader, including Honeywell Ltd., Ontario Power Generation and the University of Toronto. She most recently served as Business Unit Manager at Integran Technologies, Inc., leading their Functional Coatings group in the development, validation and commercialization of environmentally compliant, electrodeposited nanocrystalline cobalt alloy coatings for hard chromium replacement applications.

Ms. Facchini’s current research interests include the use of materials forensics and application-specific test testing to drive product improvements and accelerate the adoption of advanced materials in industry. She is active in the research community, having published 1 book chapter, 8 technical papers and proceedings, 5 patents and 9 patent applications, and presented at 10 technical conferences. Ms. Facchini’s work has garnered her the Young Investigator Award at the Canadian Connective Tissue Conference in 2003 for her post-graduate work involving the effects of orally administered vanadium-based drugs for diabetes treatment on bone mechanical, mineral and remodelling properties and the Surfair Innovation Award in 2010 for the paper entitled “Microstructural engineering of surfaces: applications for nanocrystalline and grain boundary engineered materials in aerospace and defense”, which described the application of surface treatments to metal, composite or polymer surfaces to increase their strength, stiffness, wear, impact, erosion and corrosion resistance.

She has been an invited speaker to University of Toronto’s Materials Science and Engineering Industry Day and Impact Speaker Series, and the American Society of Materials (ASM) Ontario’s Member’s Meeting where she serves as an active chapter member. Ms. Facchini is a recognized leader with a demonstrated ability to mentor and guide technical teams, including mature, new and student technologists, engineers and scientists.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your current job?

I wear two hats at George Brown College:

(1) Manager, Business Development and Industry Liaison with the Office of Research and Innovation, where I facilitate industry-academic and community-academic applied research collaborations that advance the innovation agenda of our partners and result in meaningful experiential learning opportunities for our students. I am the first point of contact for external partners seeking to leverage the college’s talent and facilities in health technology and health sciences. Working with the partners, I conduct a needs assessment, assemble the project teams, facilitate project scoping and budgeting, and lead funding applications as necessary.

(2) Principal Investigator, where I lead industry-driven collaborative research projects that use materials forensics and application-specific testing to drive product improvements and accelerate the adoption of advanced materials in industry. Often interdisciplinary in nature, this work draws on the college’s strengths primarily in mechanical engineering technology, construction engineering technology, dental technology and orthotics & prosthetics.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I was a strong student all-around, but I was most interested math and science – I took every STEM elective available to me in high school. I have also always had a strong desire to help people, and was active in mentorship, outreach and coaching activities. I found an outlet for both these driving forces in the convergence of engineering and health. I was (am) particularly fascinated with biomedical implants – the way they restore functionality and enhance quality of life and how they meet the near impossible environmental and physical demands of the body. I was completely taken by the biomaterials undergraduate and post-graduate opportunities in the field of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto. From day 1 I connected with Materials Engineering, a feeling that persists to this day.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love being in the space where technology and business converge, and where research becomes product. On a daily basis, I am inspired through my engagements with innovative and highly motivated local entrepreneurs. I love to hear their stories and find a way to help them achieve their goals. My job always has me learning something new: a new technology, new company, new application area, new technique. I draw on a core foundation of knowledge and experience but I get to apply it in different ways with each new partner, which keeps my days interesting and fresh.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

I’m continuously immersed in emerging technologies, so for me, National Engineering Month is a time for reflection, appreciation and celebration of the daily feats of engineering that I often overlook. I want to see the world through my toddler’s eyes, where things like buses, airplanes, trains, boats, cameras, the coffee maker, tall buildings, etc. are magical and fascinating. I want to ask the seemingly innocent question, “How does that work?”, realize that I don’t know and enjoy the pursuit of the answer. Lastly, I want to share this newfound knowledge with my family, friends and peers, both engineers and non-engineers alike.

What advice do you have for young women who hope to pursue a career in your field?

Do it! Materials engineering is a field that transcends all other disciplines and sectors. I’ve worked in countless sectors including electronics, sporting goods, aviation, defense, automotive, biomedical, consumer goods, industrial goods, food, environment, energy, and more. Materials can be a gateway to further specialization or a way to maintain variety at work. Materials Engineering is a small, but tight-knit and supportive community. It is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary – you always work with other types of engineers and scientists to address technical challenges, as well as all the other professionals that engineers tend to engage with in business and law. I have had the good fortune to work with some exceptional female Materials Engineers, and firmly believe that the profession will thrive with more women joining the ranks.

How would you describe the relationship with your mentor/mentee?

I am fortunate to have both mentors and mentees, and have had positive experiences on both sides which have helped guide me professionally and personally. I have a few different types of mentors, with varying length, frequency of interaction and levels of formality depending on the situation. Some relationships came about organically through frequent unrelated interactions, while others were more orchestrated and I actively sought them out. The key questions I asked myself when I was searching for a mentor were: What type of mentor am I looking for (technical, leadership, inspirational, connector, work/life, etc.)? Who do I want to emulate professionally and personally? Do their interests and values seem to be aligned with mine? What is in it for them? My advice for finding and engaging with a mentor is to be clear about what you hope to gain from the relationship, to be respectful of what your mentor gives you, whether it be time, referrals, advice, etc., and to be honest with yourself and them if the relationship is not working out.

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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