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Katie Pitts

Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot be. Your career is up to you, it might be tougher because of the path you chose, but that does not make it less worthwhile.

Katie Pitts obtained her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, focusing on the rheology of polymer processing for her thesis. Katie completed her doctorate in Chemical Engineering at the University of Ottawa, focusing on the rheology of blood flow in microfluidic channels using visualization techniques. She has worked in various industrial manufacturing roles and studied the rheology of nanoparticle suspensions for immersion lithography applications. Katie has also taught the courses Biofluid Mechanics and Design of Artificial Organs in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Ottawa. In her current role as a Senior Test Engineer at Abbott Point of Care, working with the i-STAT system handheld blood analyzer and cartridges, Katie combines her expertise in blood rheology, microfluidics and manufacturing environments.

In her free time, Katie is a volunteer STEM educator with Let’s Talk Science throughout the Ottawa region. During her graduate studies she also volunteered with Science Travels, going as far as the Northwest Territories and Northern Ontario, bringing hands-on science demonstrations and lessons to elementary and secondary education students.

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

I am a Senior Test Engineer at Abbott Point of Care. My group is responsible for the test methods, protocols and calibration of the i-STAT system cartridges used in the handheld blood analyzer. We work to ensure quality standards are maintained in cartridge testing and calibration. I am responsible for experimental design and analysis, as well as contributing as a member of various cross-functional teams.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

I have always wanted to work in a technical field, and my dream was to achieve a Ph.D. The hands-on practical aspect of engineering especially appealed to me. I also enjoy the problem solving and teamwork that are inherent to engineering work.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I especially love the practical aspects of my job. Designing a good microfluidics testing procedure requires understanding not only the basic fluid mechanics, but also the considerations of blood as a working fluid.

There are many unique challenges associated with working with a biological fluid such as blood. There are so many intricacies involved in using a living fluid, and that fascinates me.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

I always try to participate in local Engineering Month activities. Last year I gave a lunch and learn talk at the University of Ottawa. When I was in undergraduate studies, I was very active in my local student engineering societies, which had many Engineering Week activities, games and contests.

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

Many times when volunteering with youth, female students pull me aside after the lesson or talk to voice their questions and concerns about being a woman in a male-dominated field. I always try to encourage them, and my message is largely the same to each of them: Be what you want to be when you grow up. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot be. Your career is up to you, it might be tougher because of the path you chose, but that does not make it less worthwhile.

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

It is important to choose a mentor that you respect and admire. I have several unofficial mentors at my workplace, which evolved naturally. It was important for me to meet the people who had previously held my role in the company, and have regular conversations with them on what I am working on. Personally, I have also found my PhD supervisor to be an excellent mentor. I still contact her with questions!

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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